If you are in a leadership role at a science museum, you are likely thinking about new ways to serve your community, inspire youth, and catalyze public engagement — all while staying abreast of advances in science and technology, maintaining your facilities and programs, supporting your staff, being responsive to your board, and staying afloat financially. That’s a lot to have on your mind. Partnerships with research centers can assist in all of these areas. They can …
• Bring your audiences an exciting flow of new discoveries, cutting-edge science and innovation through new exhibits, programs, and face-to-face researcher encounters.
• Liven your exhibit halls with the enthusiasm of youthful researchers from diverse backgrounds, ready to engage hands-on with kids and their families.
• Provide your staffers with new salary support, resources, and expertise.
Your museum may already have experience working with university-based researchers. Some may serve as board members or volunteers. You may have sought out individual researchers for advice about particular programs and exhibits; they may have sought you out with their own ideas. Your museum may sponsor a program of talks by visiting scientists. Perhaps you involve local researchers in special events like Earth Day or NanoDays. These are all terrific starting points for deeper, longer-term collaborative efforts. And that is our goal:
This guide is meant to help you move your science museum beyond event- or project-based collaborations with individual researchers — toward more robust and sustained partnerships with university centers of research.
Such partnerships are a powerful yet currently under-utilized resource for science museums. Learning how to build them will open up a new realm of possibilities for your museum, your local research community, and the broader audiences you serve.
In addition, such partnerships can open up new sources of funding in the form of (1) substantial education outreach sub-awards from grant-funded university research programs, and (2) direct awards to research center – science museum collaborative endeavors integrating STEM research and education outreach.