Since its launch in September of 2019, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s $50 million Curiosity-Driven Science Initiative has furthered active public engagement with and interest in science by investing in experiences that enable everyone — youth and adults, communities and individuals, remote and in-person learners — to meaningfully connect with and participate in science. Underlying this new initiative is the premise that curiosity is a dynamic resource that drives exploration for everybody, not just scientists. With this firmly in mind, the curiosity initiative supports grantees who expand access to exploration and discovery in varied and creative ways.

To date, curiosity grantees have created paper microscopes and affordable environmental monitoring devices, led community science projects from New Orleans to New York, and built virtual worlds for learning about oceans and public health. Prior to launching this initiative, the foundation invested in the development of metrics and measurement approaches aimed at providing both the initiative and its grantees with better ways to assess the impact of their work, and inform future design.

“The initiative builds on years of exploratory grant making which tested the notion that we could design generative ways to engage the public in authentic scientific pursuits,” described Janet Coffey, Ph.D., program director for the Curiosity-Driven Science Initiative. Coffey continues,

“The curiosity initiative seeks to understand how to create experiences that meet people where they are and encourage them to explore and pursue science in their own lives, back yards and communities.”

A core curiosity initiative tenet is reaching youth and communities who have been historically underrepresented in the sciences. In order to enable broad participation in science, the initiative will support targeted research and evaluation to better understand what practices are effective, for whom, and under what conditions. To magnify the impact of these discoveries, the initiative aims to strengthen existing networks that support the implementation and spread of compelling, effective science programs.

“Our strategies are informed by empirical research that speaks to the value of active engagement in science for sparking and developing interests, understandings, skills, confidence, and even trust in science,” explained Janet. “With a longer-term eye on cultivating a curious, open-minded and engaged public, we’re placing a bet that making meaningful science experiences more accessible and commonplace today can seed important roots for tomorrow.” 



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Perspective: Sparking scientific curiosity for engagement and learning


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