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Interface of Science & Society

Interface of Science & Society

Our Interface of Science and Society research investigates how the enterprises of science as a cultural institution intersects with other sectors and institutions of society, and how scientific institutions and individual STEM professionals engage the public.

Collaborative Futures: Community-Engaged Ecology to Bridge Research and Local Interests (C Futures)

This National Science Foundation-funded RAPID project studies a process of involving the local community surrounding the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (HJA) in influencing the vision for research at the HJA after a large fire impacted 70% of the forest.

In the fall of 2023, a major wildfire burned over much of the HJA and threatened adjacent communities. The HJA is an internationally known center for forest and stream ecosystem research in the central Cascades of Oregon, and it is part of multiple research networks, including the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network, and the Experimental Forests network of the US Forest Service. Ongoing research projects were halted as the fire burned over old-growth forests and research infrastructure; as a result, rare and scientifically invaluable long-term data collection was interrupted.

In response to the fire, the HJA scientific community is launching a necessary process of revisiting how this most recent fire influences their research plans while the local community has to reimagine its preparation for future wildfires. The last decade has made it clear to both the research and local communities that fire is going to be a disturbance that influences everything for the foreseeable future. This project will invite the engagement of both the scientific and the local community as they prepare for the future. Involving the community in contributing to a long-term research agenda is unique. In engaging the local community in envisioning the research that might occur at the HJA we hope to answer questions such as: what does it look like to involve the community? Can we incorporate what they share with us about their interests, needs, fears and hopes into a long-term research agenda? What impact does inviting the community into the process have on both the community and the scientists?

This project is designed as a single case study. The focus of our proposed case study research is the impact of community engagement on the scientists, the participating public, and the long-term research planning itself. Our case study will include five elements: 1) community mapping, 2) community conversations, 3) brief surveys and in-depth interviews with HJA scientists, staff, and leaders, as well as community members, 4) observations of the research planning process, and 5) document analysis.

A steering committee of representatives from HJA partners and community organizations will identify and prioritize community partners to be included in conversations and ways of engaging with them, with specific consideration for bringing in a diversity of voices representing all aspects of the local community. The project will use existing venues and meeting spaces in the community and will partner with, and financially support, community organizations in setting up, hosting, and facilitating meetings specific to the purpose of the project.

We will discuss the results of our work with the HJA scientific community as part of the research planning process and with communities who participated in our research as part of a process for healing and restoration. Our goal is to directly support the process of engaging the local community in long-term research planning. We will share the results of our case study research with the LTER community as “promising practices” and with the science engagement and strategic science communication community more broadly, through publications, presentations, and online workshops.


2023 - 2025

This Aurorasaurus project tracks auroras around the world via reports on its website and on Twitter. Using Aurora-related tweets and reports, it generates a real-time, global map of the Lights. Citizen scientists then log in and verify the tweets. Each verified tweet or report serves as a valuable data point for scientists to analyze and incorporate into space weather models. The project has made a number of discoveries. For example, Aurorasaurus, in collaboration with citizen scientists and the scientific community, published the first scientific study of STEVE (Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement), an aurora-like phenomenon that appears closer to the equator and flows from east to west. Aurorasaurus also conducts outreach and education across the globe, often through partnerships with local groups of enthusiasts. Aurorasaurus is a research project that is a public-private partnership with the New Mexico Consortium supported by the National Science Foundation and NASA.


2022 - 2027

Polar STEAM is an NSF-funded project run by an interdisciplinary team at Oregon State University. Participants are supported in their creative, scientific, and educational practices as they develop and share creative works and educational resources that engage learners of all ages in understanding the critical global importance of polar environments and the people who call these regions home. Polar STEAM is an inclusive program that views our differences with curiosity and invests in diversity.

NASA Heliophysics Education Activation Team (NASA HEAT)

2022 - 2026

NASA Heliophysics Education Activation Team (NASA HEAT) engages communities across the nation with educational programs about heliophysics. As part of the NASA Science Activation program, NASA HEAT actively partners with scientists, educators, and communicators to provide understandable science educational content and experiences to learners of all ages.

Advancing Public Engagement with Science across the Long Term Ecological Research Network (APEAL)


The Advancing Public Engagement with Science across the Long Term Ecological Research Network (APEAL) project’s goal is to improve how Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites are engaging with their (local) community (non-profits, other governmental agencies, local internship programs, etc.). The premise behind the project is that scientific organizations that are deeply embedded into communities, or are relying on long-term relationships with the communities they are part of, might have a strategic interest in authentic engagement with those communities, in part to ensure that research efforts can be sustained over time The project will survey and interview LTER scientists, leaders, and staff from the 28 LTER sites about their strategic notions around science outreach. It will investigate several key LTER sites in depth to see what they are already doing toward public engagement of science (PES); what is going well or poorly? Then, using all that information, alongside other evidence-based public engagement with science (PES) strategies within STEM research organizations, to support the broader LTER Network in improving engagement with their community.

Learning In and From the Environment Through Multiple Ways of Knowing (LIFEways)

2022 - 2026

Many of our urgent environmental challenges, from soil degradation and water pollution to global climate change, have deep roots in how we relate to nature and to each other, and how complex systems impact human well-being: “If the water is sick, the fish get sick, and then we get sick – everything is interconnected” (Diné Elder Dr. David Begay). We see Western science and Indigenous ways of knowing (IWK) as both contributing to our understanding of how humans fit within local and global ecologies and recognize that both knowledge systems can make essential contributions to addressing environmental issues and supporting sustainable, healthy communities for generations to come. While we engage with both knowledge systems, we intentionally uplift Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and living in the environment in order to build awareness of their value.

STEM Ambassadors Program (STEMAP)

2019 - 2023

The STEM Ambassador Program is a collaborative project that seeks to foster greater inclusion in science by training scientists to engage members of the public in innovative ways outside traditional venues.

Revealing Progress toward Promotion and Tenure Reform in the Academy

2018 - 2020

The Revealing Progress toward Promotion and Tenure Reform in the Academy project assumes that the current academic system of reward and professional advancement: a) does not live up to current university values and fails to support improvements in teaching, engagement, innovation, inclusivity, convergence research and team science; and b) can be improved and is already being improved through disruptive actions by champions of change.

GLOBE: Citizen Science Needs Assessment

2016 - 2018

OSU’s STEM Research Center conducted the GLOBE: Citizen Science Needs Assessment that will inform the expansion of the NASA GLOBE program to citizen scientists outside the K-12 arena. The findings from this needs assessment informed the on going work of the NESEC project evaluation (to the NESEC project).

Curiosity Machine

2017 - 2019

Under the leadership of Drs. Kelly Riedinger and Martin Storksdieck with assistance from Victoria Bonebrake, the Center collaborated with Iridescent Learning to study the impact of project-based learning using their Curiosity Machine program on students and their families in STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics). For this project, Iridescent collaborated with the Illinois Math and Science Academy to provide students at two schools in Chicago with engineering education experiences through its Curiosity Machine platform. The research study, led by the Center, examined the Curiosity Machine as an intervention in both an after-school setting that integrates family programming, and in grades 4-8 classrooms in the two participating schools.

Grounding Institutional Partnerships in Structures for Broader Impacts Design (BID)

2017 - 2022

Higher education institutions and informal science education centers share a common interest in lowering the barriers that separate science and the public. These groups desire tools and strategies for developing mutually beneficial relationships to work together towards this common interest. In this Broader Impacts Design (BID) project, the Center developed and tested a conceptual framework to guide informal science education organizations, higher education institutions and other community-based partners in creating enduring partnerships that support public engagement with science. This framework includes recommendations for the structure and function of the partnerships, as well as tools and resources that enable these institutions to work together effectively.

Research and Development on Understanding STEM Identity Using Live Experiences

2017 - 2023

The goal of the Research and Development on Understanding STEM Identity Using Live Experiences project is to explore how audiences with little or no affinity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can become more engaged with STEM ideas through live, immersive experiences. For the project, center staff and partners collected data at the Oregon Eclipse Festival in central Oregon in 2017 and the Figment Festival at Governor’s Island, NY in 2018. We also evaluated the artist and scientist in residence program and a professional development workshop about conveying science through art at the New York Academy of Science.

Landscape Overview of University Systems and People Supporting Scientists in their Public Engagement Efforts

2017 - 2018

This study was commissioned by the Rita Allen Foundation to support a national-scale initiative to support scientists in their public engagement efforts.

AAAS Science of Team Science

2016 - 2018

AAAS Science of Team Science was led by Lou Woodley with support from Martin Storksdieck, the STEM Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). They partnered to develop a research program that examined the processes by which scientific teams organize, communicate, and collaborate through online platforms, namely the AAAS Trellis site.

Broader Impacts: Understanding STEM Principle Investigators’ Approach to Informal Education


The Broader Impacts: Understanding STEM Principle Investigators’ Approach to Informal Education project was a combined effort between the STEM Research Center and the NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education – CAISE – to assist the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program to enhance the quality of investigators’ broader impact efforts by improving their understanding of and connections with out-of-school educational resources like science centers, media, community organizations, and the web.