Diseases and Decisions: The Current Science on Emerging Threats Exhibition

  • Project Description

    The Marian Koshland Science Museum produced an interactive exhibit and supporting educational and programmatic materials for a non-scientist audience 13 and older using the reports of the National Academies on infectious disease. A special emphasis was placed on helping the visitor use science in making decisions about issues related to disease. Within this broad framework some specific learning goals for all audiences include: Science is a tool for decision making Infectious disease affects individuals society and the environment Actions can be taken to modify the effect of a disease There are costs and benefits resulting from actions and inaction relating to disease The study of disease is a personal endeavor

  • Abstract

    The Marian Koshland Science Museum will produce a 1500-square-foot exhibit on infectious disease aimed at a teen and adult audience. The exhibit will focus on three concepts: How infectious disease affects individuals society and the environment What actions can be taken to modify the impact of infectious disease What benefits and consequences there are to both action and inaction These concepts will be explained using interactive displays with emphasis on the use of current science and science-based decision support tools. The Koshland will develop public programs educational materials aimed at grades 7-12 hands-on science activities and audio and video guides to support the exhibit. An exhibit on infectious disease is relevant because of the continuing burden and increasing threat of disease worldwide. A greater understanding of recent scientific advances will help the public make decisions about their health and the health of their community.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    This exhibit opened at the Koshland Science Museum in March 2007. A companion website launched at the same time. Currently the museum is producing supporting curricular materials appropriate for a middle and high school audience and public programs aimed at adults. Short videos of the public programs are being broadcast on YouTube in partnership with MicrobeWorld.

  • Project Evaluation(s)

    Front end evaluation – Goals: Visitors’ understanding of general topics about infectious disease. Design: Interviews with 50 visitors to the Boston Museum of Science. Instrument: PERG evaluators interviewed a total of 53 visitors including 15 children (14 between ages 15 and 18) to determine their knowledge of and interest in infectious diseases and related topics. Type of data collected: Coded comments from visitors. Results: Summary of comments from visitors that highlighted knowledge areas and areas of misconceptions. Prototyping of evolutions storyboard – Goals: Visitors’ understanding of the storyboards for the proposed Evolutions video design: Interviews with a total of 40 visitors including 36 adults and four children under the age of 18. Instrument: Interviews averaged 10 to 25 minutes and all interviews were conducted with individual visitors in a one-on-one format with the evaluators. Protocol questions concerning a video storyboard. Type of data collected: Coded comments from visitors. Results: Suggestions of improvements to the storyboard for the evolutions video. Remedial evaluation of vaccines and tuberculosis displays – Goals: Visitor’s understanding of how to use and main messages of the displays on vaccines and tuberculosis displays. Design: 40 visitors at each display were interviewed using think out loud protocols. Instrument: Interviews averaged 10 to 25 minutes and all interviews were conducted with individual visitors in a one-on-one format with the evaluators. Protocol questions concerning a video storyboard. Type of data collected: Coded observations and comments from visitors. Results: Specific suggestion for improving usability of exhibitions. Summative evaluation of exhibition – Goals: To analyze the effectiveness of meeting learning goals. Design: 32 exit interviews with 42 respondents 15 interactive observations of 28 visitors (some were in groups) and 15 follow-up telephone interviews. Instrument: Interviews were conducted either one-on-one or in small related groups. The interactive observations used a think-out-loud protocol to follow visitors through the space. The phone interview used a set script. Type of data collected: Transcripts of conversations and observations. Results: The vast majority of visitors learned something new related to the learning goals and made connections to their daily lives. Half of visitors were leaving the exhibition with new questions. Suggestions were also made of ways to improve the usability of the exhibits.

  • Resources for Sharing

    The Koshland Science Museum has several different types of products that can be shared including: Materials on our website Public program ideas School field trip materials Kiosk-based exhibits

Project Audience

This exhibition is intended for non-scientist adults in the general public teachers school groups at the level of middle school and above journalists and policymakers.

Subjects Addressed

There have been many gains in public health and in our understanding of infectious disease but many challenges remain. This exhibit focuses on six main concepts: characteristics of microbes (viruses bacteria fungi and parasites) host-microbe interactions vaccines anti-infectives evolution the global burden of infectious disease and gains in life expectancy over time. The tone of the exhibit is factual and informative. While it expresses the urgent need for action in this area it is not designed to generate irrational fear.