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Nalini recently appeared in a two part series called RESILIENCE in Resilience Quarterly, co-produced by the Urban Systems Lab at the New School.

In part one, Moss in Prisons, Nalini describes her work to provide scientists with the opportunities to provide research lectures and conservation projects to people in correctional institutions.

In part two, Tapestry Thinking, Nalini discusses her framework to forge and maintain active dialogue with partners such as incarcerated individuals, faith-based groups, urban youth, and many others.

STEMAP Published in Bioscience

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Beyond the Deficit Model: The Ambassador Approach to Public Engagement


Scientists are increasingly motivated to engage the public, particularly those who do not or cannot access traditional science education opportunities. Communication researchers have identified shortcomings of the deficit model approach, which assumes that skepticism toward science is based on a lack of information or scientific literacy, and encourage scientists to facilitate open-minded exchange with the public. We describe an ambassador approach, to develop a scientist’s impact identity, which integrates his or her research, personal interests and experiences to achieve societal impacts. The scientist identifies a community or focal group to engage, on the basis of his or her impact identity, learns about that group, and promotes inclusion of all group members by engaging in venues in which that group naturally gathers, rather than in traditional education settings. Focal group members stated that scientists communicated effectively and were responsive to participant questions and ideas. Scientists reported professional and personal benefits from this approach.

Read our new paper here: Bioscience_STEMAP_2019

STEM Ambassador Program Awarded Further Funding from National Science Foundation

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STEM Ambassador ProgramThe STEM Ambassador Program has received a new round of funding from NSF, extending the program until at least 2021.

The scientific enterprise needs transformative ways for scientists to interact synergistically with society, particularly with people who do not or cannot engage with science in informal education (ISE) venues (e.g., museums, science centers) due to variations in mobility, educational background, language, health, financial status, and other factors. Although these audiences are considered “hard-to-reach,” they can contribute to science and to a more informed citizenry.

In 2016-2018, with AISL support, the project carried out exploratory research to innovate the STEM Ambassador Program (STEMAP), which integrated three proven ISE approaches to train cohorts of scientists to meaningfully engage public audiences in venues where they naturally congregate (e.g., correctional institutions, cooking classes, senior centers). Other institutions have expressed strong interest in replicating STEMAP, but additional research is needed to make STEMAP (and other ISE programs) scalable and sustainable.

Project outcomes will include 70 trained scientists, five Mentors, two Site Leaders, two Site Facilitators, at least 70 engagement events, an Evaluation Toolkit, a “Broadening Participation in STEMAP” guide, documentation of engagement outcomes, a web-based repository of training materials and engagement resources, and a Dissemination Framework to inform actions to scale and sustain STEMAP and other engagement training programs.

This project, entitled “The STEM Ambassador Program: Supporting Scientists’ Engagement with Public Audiences,” is under the direction of Nalini Nadkarni, John C. Besley, Krista Carlson, Julie M. Risien, Dennis L. Schatz.

INSPIRE Paper Published in Science Communication

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Baseline Attitudes and Impacts of Informal Science Education Lectures on Content Knowledge and Value of Science Among Incarcerated Populations

Nalini M. Nadkarni and Jeremy S. Morris

Many public audiences lack access to traditional science education. We examined baseline perceptions and the impacts of science lectures on incarcerated adults in two correctional institutions. Although incarcerated populations are often characterized as having poor educational backgrounds, being disinterested in learning, and having few tools to seek science education, our incarcerated audiences were interested in, capable of, and desirous of science education. We found positive baseline attitudes about science and a significant positive effect of science lectures on content knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions related to science, suggesting that informal science lectures may be an appropriate portal to science education for this population.

Read the rest of the paper here: Baseline Attitudes INSPIRE

INSPIRE lecture