Portal To The Public Synthesis Meetings

PortalPortal to the Public began in 2007 as an NSF-funded grant project led by Pacific Science Center in collaboration with Explora (Albuquerque, NM), the North Museum of Natural History and Science (Lancaster, PA), and the Institute for Learning Innovation (Edgewater, MD). The program sought to develop a way to assist informal science education institutions in bringing scientists and public audiences together in face-to-face public interactions that promote appreciation and understanding of current scientific research and its application. The program's hallmark is a flexible guiding framework that gives ISE institutions the ability to design and scale specific approaches and strategies to fit their own unique goals and desired impacts.

Portal to the Public partners convened a meeting, the First Synthesis Meeting at the beginning of the grant period in 2008 to help guide the development of the project. Near the end of the grant period, a Second Synthesis Meeting in 2010 served as an opportunity to review the program's achievements and consider the impact it may have on the broader field. More information and meeting reports for both Synthesis Meetings are available in the boxes below.

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First Synthesis Meeting, January 2008: Face-to-Face With Scientists

pop-synth-1The First Synthesis Meeting was held in January 2008, at the front end of the Portal to the Public grant period. For this meeting, forty-three experts, stakeholders and members of the project team came together at Pacific Science Center for two days of dialog and reflection. Participants brought diverse knowledge and experience, and represented public, research scientist and informal science education perspectives.

The First Synthesis Meeting's goal was to facilitate in-depth conversation to identify current initiatives, best practices, and future directions regarding activities in the field that:

  • Support partnership and collaboration between research organizations and informal science education institutions,
  • Involve face-to-face interactions between scientists and public audiences, and
  • Involve professional development that prepares scientists to work effectively when face-to-face with public audiences.

First Synthesis Meeting Reports

A detailed report of the First Synthesis Meeting conversations and findings is available for download (3.5 MB PDF)

A summary of key learnings is available for download (1.8 MB PDF).

We expect this report to be useful for the field as a whole, including working scientists, museum educators, public information officers at research labs and other science communication professionals.

Synthesis Meeting Presentations:

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Second Synthesis Meeting, September 2010: The Path Forward

pop-synth-2In September 2010, the Portal to the Public leadership convened a second Synthesis Meeting. The meeting was held over a two-day period at Pacific Science Center and included 64 experts, stakeholders, and members of the Portal to the Public project team.

The meeting was an opportunity to look at "The Path Forward" to determine how to best disseminate and improve the Portal to the Public effort. The overarching goal was to identify and discuss key learnings resulting from the Portal to the Public effort, and to leverage these understandings to inspire insights and recommendations that will advance the field of informal science education as a whole.

The full Second Synthesis Meeting Report with detailed observations, conclusions and recommendations--including appendices containing a meeting agenda and participant list--is available for download (3.3 MB PDF).

While many of the findings and recommendations in this article are directed specifically to the Portal to the Public effort, there are implications that apply to the broader field of Public Engagement with Science. This article and the full report are intended to be useful for a wide range of organizations and individuals.