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Learning, Generalizing, and Local Sense-Making in Research–Practice Partnerships


"Science museums have made a concerted effort to work with researchers to incorporate current scientific findings and practices into informal learning opportunities for museum visitors. Many of these efforts have focused on creating opportunities and support for researchers to interact face-to-face with the public through, for example, speaker series, community forums, and engineering competitions. However, there are other means by which practicing scientists can find a voice on the museum floor-through the design and development of exhibits. Here we describe how researchers and museum professionals have worked together to create innovative exhibit experiences for an interactive science museum. For each example: scientist as (1) data providers, (2) advisors, and (3) co-developers, we highlight essential components for a successful partnership and pitfalls to avoid when collaborating on museum exhibits. Not many museums prototype and build their own exhibits like the Exploratorium. In those cases, there may be similar opportunities in more mediated offerings such as public demonstrations or lectures or in other formats that allow for direct interactions between scientists and visitors. We believe there are many opportunities for researchers to share natural phenomena, to advise on exhibit development and interpretation, to provide much needed materials, and to otherwise incorporate authentic research into the learning experiences at museums, no matter what the format."