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Project Descriptions

Iterative Improvement of a Program for Building Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Accessible Large-scale (IDEAL) Participatory Science Projects

January 1, 2024 - December 31, 2027 | Public Programs

Many scientific inquiries require the participation of thousands of people across multiple locations to share their observations and local knowledge which together yield discoveries that are otherwise unobtainable. These large-scale public participation in scientific research (PPSR) projects also provide an important opportunity for public engagement in science. However, PPSR projects share a common challenge: public participants tend to be demographically homogeneous (white, wealthy, and highly educated), which limits informal science learning opportunities and produces gaps in the scientific data in terms of race, ability and lived experience. In this project, researchers and practitioners of two national participatory science projects will beta-test a professional development program called Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Accessible, Large-scale (IDEAL) participatory science. The program was co-created with practitioners and students who are people of color and/or immigrants, representing a range of gender identities and sexual orientations and neurodivergent individuals alongside facilitators that specialize in helping STEM professionals address social inequities. The IDEAL program supports practitioners in developing self-awareness, readiness, agency, and resources to modify their projects with practices that support belonging, equity, and accessibility. The project will iteratively test the IDEAL program and study whether it can impact practitioners' subsequent behaviors to change project structures to engage an audience of groups of the public that have been historically excluded (e.g., people of color, people with disabilities) from large-scale participatory science projects. This work is led by a partnership of researchers and practitioners from North Carolina State University, Shaw University (an HBCU), Arizona State University (a Hispanic-Serving Institution), and two nation-wide public participation in scientific research projects, Audubon's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and Colorado State University's Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), and guided by team members and advisors with expertise in diversity, equity, access, and inclusion and racially, ethnically, gender and disability diverse lived experiences.

Over a three-year period, this project will provide, iterate, and test the impact of IDEAL practices with approximately 180 practitioners whose implementation will reach approximately 6,000 public participants. The research will result in evidence-based professional development to support practices for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in the informal learning context of large-scale participatory sciences. The research will examine self-awareness, readiness, agency, and implementation of new practices by practitioners who beta test the IDEAL program. The team will conduct document analyses of the practitioner products and discourse analysis among the communities of practice supported through the IDEAL program. These methods will be used to detail evidence of IDEAL constructs (e.g., do they describe inclusion or assimilation?), derived constructs related to intended practitioner outcomes (self-awareness, readiness, and agency), and additional emergent themes using content analysis. Retrospective self-reported outcomes will explore practitioner attributions to the IDEAL training, and quantitative comparisons will help the team begin to understand aspects that differ among identity groups. To determine the impacts of the training on broadening participation among PPSR participants, the team will create three comparison groups: IDEAL sites with implementation financial support, IDEAL sites without implementation financial support, and sites without any practitioners trained with the IDEAL Program. Using pre/post surveys across approximately 1,200 public participants, the team will be able to gauge the impact of the IDEAL program on diversity of participant identity groups, participants' sense of belonging to the project, and participants' self-efficacy for science learning and doing. The evidence-based program will be shared widely on freely accessible blogs, websites, and resource centers. Research findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed journal articles and through public media outlets such as podcasts and a bilingual radio show.


Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2313996
Funding Amount: $1,999,449.00


  • Caren Cooper
    Principal Investigator
    North Carolina State University
  • Russ Schumacher
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Colorado State University
  • REVISE logo
    Co-Principal Investigator
    University of Arizona
  • Valerie Johnson
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Shaw University
  • Chad Wilsey
    Co-Principal Investigator
    National Audubon Society
  • Resource Type: Projects | Project Descriptions
    Discipline: General STEM
    Audience: General Public | Learning Researchers | Scientists
    Environment Type: Public Programs
    Access and Inclusion: Ethnic/Racial

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