A research centre in every science centre?

Ever thought about science museums and science centres having their own dedicated research centres? No, me neither. But that was the suggestion of Leo Tan Wee Hin, president of the Singapore National Academy of Sciences, in the science communication session this morning.

The Singapore Science Centre

The Singapore Science Centre: home to research? (Credit: Flickr/Eugene Phoen)

He thinks it’s a missed opportunity that science centres, academies and universities get involved in informal science learning for the public but then don’t do any research into its effectiveness. After all, he said, these people are trained scientists, so they’re well-placed to carry out rigorous research into the impact of their activities.

“We’ll spend money on a pretty science centre but not on its results,” he said. “Most of the staff in science centres have PhDs, there is immense scope for the emerging field of informal science learning.”

Few developing countries have science centres, and their science academies, societies and universities are under-resourced. But they are an important mode of science communication in those countries that do have successful organisations. If countries heeded Tan’s words as they developed, perhaps this could be their chance to get in on the field and define its focus while it is still young.

Katherine Nightingale, South-East Asia news editor, SciDev.Net

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