From which side of the aisle?

In rare circumstances, no additional funding may be needed for your education outreach project; the partners bring the perfect balance of in-kind resources to the table. This may be true, for instance, if the science museum has an infrastructure and staff in place, perhaps through general operating funds or endowment, that supports ongoing development and delivery of current science and technology interpretive activities, and the staff are looking only for contributions of authentic content and talent from a science and engineering research center; and, in tandem, that researchers at that center have their own reasons for participating in outreach to broader audiences. Or, perhaps the science museum has funding for building a new exhibit, and the exhibit developers are seeking technical advice and science consulting from researchers. Or, perhaps, as with NanoDays, this is a one-time event that the museum sponsors annually, and seeks volunteer researcher participation for a fun-filled day or weekend.

In most circumstances, however, science museum staff is stretched to the limit on a daily basis to keep up the regular programmed schedule of demonstrations, presentations, and floor time with visitors. Even running a volunteer program for researchers to come in and help to enrich museum activities requires resources for staff time, organizational infrastructure and some appropriate facilities. The exhibits people are likely to be engaged in maintenance issues or other long-term development projects that would preclude their availability to whip something together for a current newsworthy event or to consult with researchers on their own concepts for exhibits.

As a result most partnership efforts to bring public audiences face-to-face with researchers or to help keep visitors abreast of emerging science and technology, will need some other form of dedicated support. Typically, funding comes from one side of the aisle – an informal science education granting agency – or, from the other – a science research granting agency. In the first instance, the ISE institution is the primary applicant; in the second instance, the university research center is the primary applicant. Most science museums are fairly familiar with the ISE approach; this guide will address that approach, but will also recommend that you explore the other approach; not only because it offers many more opportunities, but also because it is so underutilized.

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