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National Science Foundation Selects Museum of Science, Boston to Head $20 Million Network for Public Engagement with Nanotechnology

Museum of Science to partner with the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the Science Museum of Minnesota to lead the efforts of multiple science museums and research institutions nationally.
BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 6, 2005-- The Museum of Science, Boston (MoS) announced today, in partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Exploratorium in San Francisco, that it has been selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead a $20 million effort to form a national Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Network) of multiple science museums and research institutions. The NISE Network will collaboratively develop and distribute innovative approaches to engaging Americans in nanoscale science and engineering education, research, and technology. The $20 million award to the Museum of Science and its partners for the five-year effort is the largest award NSF has ever given to the science museum community.

"The nanotechnology field is rapidly evolving with fundamental advances in physical and life sciences being seen in all areas of our society from medicine to manufacturing, and outcomes with technological, economic, social, environmental and ethical implications that may change our world," said Mihail Roco, key architect of the National Nanotechnology Initiative and Senior Advisor for Nanotechnology of the National Science Foundation. "An increased understanding of nanoscale science and engineering is vital to create an informed citizenry and a competitive workforce for this broad-based technology, and we recognize the substantial role of science museums and other informal science education institutions in pioneering innovative science learning experiences, supplementing K-12 school-based science education, and engaging adult audiences."

Leading educators and researchers will closely collaborate in this endeavor steered by an experienced science museum group. The MoS will both administer the project and will focus on the creation of an informal science education media network and adult education and forum programs for adults and older youth with an emphasis on discussion, dialogue, and deliberation of the issues raised by the emergence of nanotechnologies. The Science Museum of Minnesota will lead the Network's NISE Center for Exhibit and Program Production and Dissemination, while San Francisco's Exploratorium will oversee the Center for NISE Research. The NISE Network is not only the first one to address nanotechnology informal education but also is a new way in which NSF is placing its funding to National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) centers and networks to be more relevant to society. The NNI is a federal program established to coordinate the efforts of 24 federal agencies in nanoscale research.

Nanoscale science and engineering explores revolutionary approaches to producing new kinds of materials, systems, and devices through the control and manipulation of matter at the nanoscale (one billionth of a meter), the realm of individual atoms and molecules. The federal government's current investment in nanotechnology research is expected to lead to far-reaching and beneficial outcomes for healthcare, manufacturing, information processing, defense, construction and transportation, energy production and conservation. These breakthroughs will likely require an overhaul in science and engineering education and will also have economic, environmental, cultural and societal dimensions that will require public input and guidance.

"The NSF's support of nanotechnology education initiatives is key to our ability to continue to keep the public informed on these important scientific and technological developments," said Larry Bell, VP for Research, Development and Production at the Museum of Science and NISE Network project lead. "Building the Network will be an outstanding opportunity for the nation's science museums to collaborate and leverage their creative efforts for greater overall educational impact, while also providing opportunities to strengthen ties between informal science educators, the scientific research community, and K-12 curricula developers."

The first two years of the project will focus on the development of the NISE Network and research on best approaches to engaging public audiences in understanding and discussing nanoscale science and engineering themes and perspectives, through the development of a wide variety of prototype exhibits, programs, media, and professional development activities.

The second phase of the project, beginning in October 2007, will focus on the production, implementation, and dissemination of educational and professional development activities and materials. The NISE Network leadership team has set the aggressive goal to provide some form of educational materials to 100 informal educational sites by the end of 2010.

This award was made as a Cooperative Agreement by the Informal Science Education program in the Education and Human Resources Directorate and is being co-funded by 12 Research and Related Activities programs across NSF.

For more information, visit the press room at www.mos.org


 
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