The article explains why communities are effective drivers for action on complex societal issues that involve science, and how museums are in a unique position to support community learning and action on those issues. The authors focus on the concept of community literacy, or how to be aware of, discuss and communicate about, and use scientific ways of thinking within a community, to allow members of that community to work together to improve their collective well-being.
As an individual often cannot obtain all the information they want or need or address complex issues alone, taking a community-level view of literacy can help us understand where learning and action are most likely to be most effective. Museums, the authors describe, have the reach, trust, organizing power, and science interpretation expertise to be able to bring diverse communities, scientific experts, and organizations together for shared learning and action, including many forms of engagement and dialogue relevant to community science.
How to Use
This resource is particularly helpful for identifying why and how museums can be important partners and co-leaders for facilitating community science projects that connect science to community priorities and solutions. The discussion of why communities are a vital focal point for addressing complex science-related issues offers a clean and helpful synthesis of relevant research on social movements and science education. The authors' description of museums' many social, cultural, and physical forms of capital and how those strengths can support community engagement in dialogue and research is particularly useful for understanding how museums can support community science.
The authors also provide a case study from their own experiences building the capacity of museums and informal science learning institutions to collaborate across organizations and community groups. They highlight some of the challenges, particularly around rethinking museums' roles and developing culture change that allow informal science learning centers to "convene, align, facilitate, and organize the work of multiple organizations in pursuit of a common social purpose." They also describe some of the areas where informal science learning centers can focus to address this challenge and how to do so, including through evidence-based communication and engagement focused on community aspirations and mutual goals.