Changing how scientists engage the public with science

Too often, we're told science communication is the key to building trust in science. But science communication largely speaks to an audience that actively seeks a relationship with science. Therefore, to drive science communication forward, we must become active in bringing science to the forefront of public visibility, and show people it can be easy for them to engage with science in their everyday lives. We must create an audience where one currently does not exist.

This is why I'm not modeling Experience Daliona as a traditional science center. The foundation of Experience Daliona is to enact active science engagement: simply put, place science in a location where everyday people have the ability to engage with it in passing, rather than need to choose to seek it out, as they must with traditional science centers. Heightening awareness in this way is more likely to inspire mroe members of the public to actively seek out science, rather than waiting for them to approach science on their own with little or no inspiration, where any inconvience or delay could overshadow their decision.

As the first phase of Experience Daliona, Sidewalk Science Center has already allowed me to singlehandedly engage with more than 1,000 people of all ages in the span of one-and-a-half months. I've tested models, refined my approaches, and most importantly, gotten to see how kids, teens, and adults react to science. I've developed a sense of approachability, immediately follow up the introduction with a quick demo that never ceases to awe the audience, and then proceed with hands-on experiences anyone can try on the spot. Coupled with a photo uploaded to Instagram, participants can share this experience with friends and family long after they leave.

Providing engagement in an everyday, non-dedicated setting leads people to pursue an interest on their own time. I also work at a children's exploration center at a local non-profit organization in Savannah, and I regularly re-meet some of the same people who participated in Sidewalk Science Center with their kids. Many have told me stories of how they went home and built flying cups, how they love using the diffraction rainbow glasses, and one favorite story of mine is that a grandfather ended up buying a microscope for his granddaughter because she loved the digital microscope at Sidewalk Science Center. Hearing these stories firsthand - not even online - is always heartwarming, and shows the impact this program has on the greater community.

Progress is being made here at Experience Daliona. Recently, the outstanding reception of Sidewalk Science Center is allowing me to rapidly shift into Experience Daliona Phase Two: Travel and Events. On August 30, 2018, I am traveling to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to host SSC, meet scientists and other science communicators, and film videos related to science communication, science engagement, and mental heath in academics.

Phase Three of Experience Daliona is also in the works. I've been writing a proposal for the Board of Directors at the non-profit I work for, and will present to them in early September. I've directly consulted and collaborated with other informal science communication and education professionals, who have been influential and, in some cases, have a direct stake in this proposal. With only a few more meetings standing between me and presenting to the Board of Directors, exciting progress is quickly being made, and I will work to keep up this momentum moving forward.

The mission of Experience Daliona is to revolutionize the state of science education, earn the trust of the public, and increase science's visibilty and accessibility. We can achieve this, because the pursuit of science is a collective experience.

To all our endeavors,

Alex Martin

Founder, Experience Daliona

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