Cultivating a scientifically-minded public.

The Curiosity-Driven Science Initiative aims to increase active engagement with and in science through catalytic investments in design and development of experiences that enable youth and their communities to draw on curiosity to ask questions, use and pursue evidence, and solve problems in areas that matter to them. We hypothesize that these activities — the hallmarks of scientific exploration — combined with the right tools can empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Alongside our grantees and partners, we aim to expand access to the meaningful experiences that give rise to exploration, with explicit intent towards reaching youth who have been historically underrepresented in the sciences. Addressing this gap in opportunities to experience and engage in authentic science is critical for cultivating science interest, developing scientific and evidence-based reasoning practices, contributing to understandings of the natural world, experiencing the joy of discovery, and building confidence that one can ask and pursue questions and figure things out.

Why this work matters

Most of the foundation’s Science Program grantmaking seeks to unleash scientists’ curiosity at the cutting edge of select scientific fields to accelerate the quest for new knowledge. A much smaller fraction of the foundation’s work attends to the enabling conditions required for science to flourish. This initiative is a response to the need to nourish the future vitality of science.

Our vision has science occupying a central and steadfast place in the fabric of society. This vision hinges upon a curious and open-minded citizenry that values science, respects its judgments, and turns to evidence-based decision-making in personal, professional, and civic arenas. We recognize that having a thriving science enterprise in this country requires earning the public’s support for science and inspiring the next generation to pursue it.

The Curiosity-Driven Science Initiative’s slice of this larger vision is motivated by research that speaks to the value of experience and active engagement in science for sparking and developing interests, building skills and confidence, and seeding trust in science.

Key principles

The Curiosity initiative is grounded in these key principles:

  • Science-rich experiences provide a foundation for future engagement and learning.
    Exploring the natural world matters: getting your hands dirty, taking things apart, and questioning how things work or what contributes to inconsistencies fuels meaningful and sustained engagement with science.
  • Community and out-of-school settings provide good contexts for science-rich engagement.
    Ongoing research confirms the importance of out-of-school opportunities for promoting scientific curiosity, problem solving, and solidifying life-long interests in science. Pursuing science more locally — in one’s backyard, in one’s community, in areas of one’s concerns —can lead to greater interest and deeper, more sustained engagement.
  • Youth should be a critical audience for science engagement efforts.
    We focus on opportunities for youth because it is far easier to keep them interested, engaged and curious about science and the natural world than to re-engage adults who have been turned off from science. Moreover, today’s youth are the decision makers and problem solvers of the not-too-distant future; some of them will become tomorrow’s scientists, but all of them are tomorrow citizens.

Initiative strategies

Specific strategies include:

  • Develop and disseminate tools, experiences, and resources that enable broad participation in science, promote curiosity, and engender problem-solving.
  • Advance efforts and partnerships that support deep engagement in science by youth and communities historically underrepresented in the sciences.
  • Catalyze and expand collaborations and networks to support implementation, dissemination and scale.
  • Target research and evaluation to better understand what is effective, for whom, and under what conditions.

 

 

 

IMPACT STATEMENT

Enhancing opportunities for active public engagement with science as a means to help cultivate a curious and an open-minded public that appreciates, values and uses science.

KEY DATA POINTS

Curiosity is a driving force for science for everyone

Focus on design, development, and dissemination of science-rich experiences.
  • first award

    Sep 2019

  • grants to date

    $33,839,834

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