Sciencetogo.Org: Using Humor to Engage a Public Audience with the Serious Issue of Climate Change

Monday, 15 December 2014
David Scott Lustick1, Jill Lohmeier1, Robert F Chen2, David Rabkin3 and Rick Wilson4, (1)University of Massachusetts Lowell, Education, Lowell, MA, United States, (2)University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, United States, (3)Museum of Science, Boston, MA, United States, (4)Texas State University San Marcos, Communication, San Marcos, TX, United States
A team of educators, scientists, and communication experts from multiple universities as well as a Science museum will report on the impact of ScienceToGo.org, which is an Out of Home Multi-Media (OHMM) exhibit targeting adults riding a major subway system. The campaign’s goal is to design, implement, and study the efficacy of an OHMM model for free choice science learning about our changing climate. Subway riders represent a diverse and captive audience with most of them spending an average of one hour a day in the subway system. Through the use of specially designed OHMM such as train placards, platform posters, and virtual resources the campaign engages a potential audience of 500,000 riders/day with opportunities to learn climate change science informally.

The primary goal of the ScienceToGo.org campaign is to engage, entertain, and educate the adult subway riding community in major U.S. city about climate change as a real, relevant, and solvable local challenge. A naturalistic quasi-experimental inquiry employing a mixed methodology approach best describes our research design with half of the subway system exposed to the project signage (experimental group) and the other half not being exposed to the project signage (control group). To identify possible outcomes, data was collected in the several forms: survey, analytic data associated with website, social media, web app, focus groups, and observations. This campaign is an example of how an individual’s daily routine may be enhanced with an informal science learning opportunity.

We see an urgent need to improve both the public’s engagement with climate change science and to the profile of climate change science in formal education settings. The campaign makes deliberate use of humor and fun to engage a public and diverse audience with the serious issue of climate change. The research that will be presented will reveal some of the strengths and weaknesses of this strategy when communicating science to a diverse audience. Overall, the preponderance of evidence indicates that humor and fun are effective at engaging riders on mass transit. Mass transit spaces represent a promsing medium for further exploration and development when it comes to informal learning about climate change science.