An Alumni Event Helps Celebrate International Science Center & Science Museum Day

By Tomi Ellis, Communications Officer, Scitech, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Scitech, which opened in 1988, marked the first International Science Center & Science Museum Day (ISCSMD) with an Alumni Event that highlighted how Scitech has been shaped by its staff and volunteers, and how those staff and volunteers have been shaped by Scitech.

As well as Scitech alumni and current staff, special guests attended the event including the founder of Scitech, Mal Bryce AO, and current Scitech CEO Alan Brien.

Speakers included Wesfarmers Chairman Michael Chaney, who played a big role in making Scitech a reality; Scitech Director of Science Programs Andrew Hannah, who has been with the organization since its early years; and Christine Wood, a previous staff member and current science teacher who expressed her continuing love for sharing the gift of science.

Scitech’s current and planned programs and events work on many of UNESCO’s Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on Goal 4, “Quality Education,” Goal 3, “Good Health and Well-Being,” Goal 8, “Decent Work and Economic Growth,” Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals,” and Goal 5, “Gender Equality.”

Scitech also participated in NASA’s GLOBE Observer citizen science project for ISCSMD which aims to help international scientists answer questions about climate change, and built a large graphical display in the center’s foyer that highlights the local and international work its staff has undertaken to make science accessible to everyone.

Image: Michael Chaney speaking to past and present Scitech staff members, as well as special guests from the science industry, during the ISCSMD event

Supporting the SDGs with scientific research, public engagement, and action

By the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University


In September of 2015 the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (ANS) had the opportunity to host a panel on climate change keynoted by economist and economic development expert Jeffrey Sachs. As part of his talk, Prof. Sachs discussed the pending passage of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

His description of the SDGs provided an inspiring element of hope in what is sometimes a depressing conversation. World social, economic, and environmental problems are vast, particularly when discussing climate change, but the idea of concerted effort by the world community to squarely face these problems—and set goals to address them—offers movement in the right direction.

At ANS we’re not formally working on SDGs, but the spirit of the goals is part of our institutional DNA. As one of the oldest natural history institutions in the western hemisphere, we are committed to high-level research and to scientific excellence. But we are also guided by two other key principles—active public engagement and positive human impact. Science is the centerpiece of our work, but our explicit goals include communicating, translating, and acting on science in ways that benefit humanity.

For the last 70 years, an important part of that science has been research and action to understand and protect streams, rivers, and watersheds. Water quality starts in nature, and we work to make sure that the ecology of waterways is doing its part to keep water clean. It’s obvious that Goal 6—ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”—resonates deeply with our advancing research, education, and public engagement in biodiversity and environmental science.

In Philadelphia, the front door of our city is the Delaware River. Though the Delaware Basin is smaller in area than the Chesapeake or the Great Lakes, the river provides drinking water for 15 million people—5% of the U.S. population.

Thirty years after the passage of the Clean Water Act, many of the nation’s streams and rivers remain impaired. While the CWA has been very successful in controlling industrial and wastewater discharges it has revealed a different and more insidious stress—“nonpoint source pollution.” Runoff across the landscape, from farms, lawns, city streets, and urban gutters, can carry as much pollution as a sewage plant, and it has proven much more difficult to control.

The Delaware is no exception. The 13,500-square-mile watershed of the Delaware is a mix of undisturbed woodlands, highly developed metropolitan areas, and large tracts of farmland. Limiting the effects of runoff on the Delaware is crucial for both society and nature.

For the last five years, ANS has been one of the lead partners in the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI). This is a multi-year, multi-dimensional, multi-million-dollar effort launched by the William Penn Foundation to protect and restore the watersheds of the Delaware.

In the last three years, William Penn has invested upwards of 40 million dollars in the work of over 50 partner organizations involved in a wide range of projects to protect the valuable forested headwaters and restore the sections of the basin that have been impaired by urban and agricultural runoff.

As the restoration and protection projects are planned and carried out, the Academy has had the opportunity to ensure the presence of sound science in all aspects of the DRWI. From identifying priority sites to monitoring the ecological results of the projects, the DRWI has provided a unique example of how science and community organizations can work together.

The DRWI is just one example of work by ANS that aligns with the SDGs. Through education, research, and public programs, ANS has been involved in issues identified as critical for people and the planet.

The DRWI has provided a unique and unprecedented level of involvement for ANS, both in terms of working with practitioners and in the breadth and scale of the activity. We think this is a cutting-edge trend that will become an expected role for science in the future as we deal with complex problems in human and natural systems.

From biodiversity and water quality to the overarching issue of climate change, ANS is working to engage the public around scientific questions and apply them to positive human impact. The SDGs will provide a context for future work in many of these areas.

The Wellcome Image Awards: The Power of Visual Imagery as an Engagement Tool

By Joanna Castle, Wellcome Image Awards Project Manager, and Carly Dakin, Clinical Collections Coordinator, Wellcome Images

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

On this, the day which celebrates international science centers and science museums, we wanted to introduce the Wellcome Image Awards, an annual exhibition featured at many science and technology centers around the world with an aim to educate through the best science imagery.

Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations, and spark debate. Our funding supports over 14,000 people in more than 70 countries. In the next five years, we aim to spend up to £5 billion helping thousands of curious, passionate people all over the world explore ideas in science, population health, medical innovation, the humanities and social sciences, and public engagement.

The Wellcome Image Awards are the Wellcome Trust’s most eye-catching celebration of science, medicine, and life. The Awards recognise the creators of the most informative, striking, and technically excellent images that communicate significant aspects of biomedical science. The winners are selected from all new images acquired by Wellcome Images during the preceding year. Judged by a panel that includes experts in science communication, medicine, and biomedical science, the Awards showcase the best in science image making.

The purpose of the Wellcome Image Awards is to improve scientific transparency, and encourage and stimulate public discussion. The major challenge we face is ensuring that the science we promote is understood, relevant, and accessible to all ages. To help achieve this, the Wellcome Image Awards winning images are exhibited at science centers and museums worldwide; for the 2016 Awards we partnered with 15 science centers across the UK, Europe, and Africa including the Science Museum (London), the Dundee Science Centre (Scotland), the Polytechnic Museum (Russia), and the Africa Centre for Population Health (South Africa). This collaboration has significantly improved our ability to reach and inspire both children and adults alike.

aThe Wellcome Image Awards, which began in 1997, are open to scientists, artists, and illustrators of all ages. The images represent many fields, utilize a variety of techniques, and always surprise. In fact, our judges were charmed this year by an illustration from our youngest ever contributor: an 8-year-old girl who eloquently illustrated the inter-species transmission and host species of the influenza virus.

Since 2011, Wellcome Images has partnered with the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MIT team select their favourite form our winners and we do the same for their annual awards. The 2016 Wellcome Image Awards are currently still showing at the Polytechnic Museum in Russia; we were very excited to collaborate with them and a host of other new venues in 2016 expanding from 10 to 15. We aim to widen our reach each year making the awards more accessible to as many new audiences as possible, raising public awareness, curiosity and understanding in science, biomedicine, and imaging technology. You can keep up to date with the 2017 awards via our accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Images 1. A child interacts with an exhibition display at the Glasgow Science Centre (Credit Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images)
Image 2. The ecology of influenza A viruses (Credit Dolores Murcia)

Hidden Figures and Our Hidden History Exhibit

By Crystal Harden, Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives, Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

As far as not being equal was concerned, she said, “I didn’t have time for that. My dad taught us you are as good as anybody in this town, but you’re no better.”
—Katherine Johnson, “Katherine Johnson, the NASA Mathematician Who Advanced Human Rights with a Slide Rule and Pencil,” Vanity Fair, August 23, 2016, by Charles Bolden

When I read the article and this particular quote by the amazingly gifted Katherine Johnson, I immediately felt all kinds of emotions because I had heard that exact thing from my grandparents and parents while growing up in rural Wilson County, North Carolina. As a result, I have never doubted my abilities to achieve academically, and I developed a lifelong passion for education. Others may not have grown up hearing such words of encouragement, but now this book and this movie give them that opportunity.

When I first heard about a new movie starring Taraji P. Henson, called Hidden Figures, I was intrigued. I had to find out more details. Once I understood that the movie was based on a book about women computers, particularly African American women who worked for NASA, I wanted to know more and understand why I did not know this history. As I began to read about the author, Margot Shetterly, I learned about the connection between astronauts (all of whom received celestial navigation training at Morehead Planetarium) and Katherine Johnson. I also viewed the online talks and lectures of Margot Shetterly as she described the time period of the story, including the important work of Katherine Johnson and other women.

On a leap of faith, I emailed Ms. Shetterly and explained the history of Morehead Planetarium and its role in training NASA astronauts between 1959 and 1975. I was hopeful and persistent. It paid off! She replied with an intense interest in coming to Morehead to share the story of Hidden Figures. I can’t explain my excitement except to say, “over the moon.” The Morehead community and I cannot wait to hear what Ms. Shetterly experienced growing up in the Hampton, Virginia, area near Langley Air Force Base, as well as all of her research on the women who pioneered space trajectory calculations.

My colleagues at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center felt so strongly about telling this story to all our visitors that we designed an accompanying photo exhibit, Hidden History of Firsts in Flight. This new exhibit will highlight the first women in aviation and space flight, such as Bessie Coleman, Amelia Earhart, and Mae Jemison, along with the first human computers, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and North Carolina native Christine Darden.

The impact of these women stretches far beyond the missions and projects on which they worked. Because of them, young girls today can be empowered to write code and develop computer games.

We hope this story will open up new passions and dreams for more girls and young women to see themselves in the engineering and technology realms of research, development, exploration, and innovative design. Our goal and unwavering hope is that children, especially young girls and young women, believe that they are as good as anybody, just like Katherine Johnson did. We know that if they believe then they can and will achieve their highest potential.

Nature and Science Museums in an External Responsibility Context

By Emlyn Koster

Increasingly, we see that the boundaries between types of museums and between their local and global horizons are blurring. These trends enable museums—especially nature and science museums—to accelerate their attention to external impacts in environmental and societal contexts. For its part, the International Council of Museums has a global working group to re-examine the definition of ”museum”, first formulated in 1946 and last updated in 2007. Indeed, many types of organizations are starting to redefine success as the need to plan and operate with a triple bottom line—planet + people + profit—equally in mind. In a global context of peace and development, UNESCO’s call for science museums and science centers to maximize their contributions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encourages a redoubling of all efforts to be relevant to what truly matters in the worlds of today and tomorrow.

Across our sector, a blurring of internal boundaries would strengthen its external value. Science centers could accelerate their expansion from a traditional focus on science literacy through interactivity towards science-driven issues with an adaptive toolkit; science centers and science museums could more readily view themselves with overlapping missions and convene more easily; and natural history museums could reposition themselves more quickly as integrated resources for the past, present, and future. As the declaration that culminated the 2012 National Science Foundation–funded meeting at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., stated: “Humanity is embedded within nature and we are at a critical moment in the continuity of time… We have the urgent responsibility to give voice to the Earth’s immense story and to secure its sustainable future.”

The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences—host venue for the 2014 ASTC Conference, 2016 Wildlife Society Conference, and 2019 Citizen Science Association Conference—embraces these trends. The 2014 World Science Centre Summit in Mechelen, Belgium, urged our sector to embrace new connections and new meanings. In Raleigh, new examples include a series of evening town hall programs focused on SDGs, including the involvement of the UN and White House, as well as daytime and evening film and discussion programs (e.g. Our approach to university partnerships is an illustration of the advocacy in Mechelen by Susan Glover, then chief scientific advisor to the president of the European Union, that “research not communicated is research not completed.” The calling in Mechelen to exchange practices across our sector is also one that we embrace.

Applying my training as a geologist and experiences at the helm of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Ontario Science Centre, Liberty Science Center, and now the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, I keenly accepted an invitation from Bernice Murphy in Canberra, Australia, editor of the celebratory 70th anniversary book project for the International Council of Museums. Just published by Routledge and titled Museums, Ethics and Cultural Heritage, its chapter 22 is titled “From Apollo into the Anthropocene: The Odyssey of Nature and Science Museums in an Externally Responsible Context.” Its main points may be summarized as follows:

The nature and science museum sector has been slow to address the intensifying extent of human impacts on the Earth’s natural systems. Ideally as topical resources to healthy communities and environmental stewardship, and whether or not the Anthropocene becomes formalized in the Geological Time Scale, this sector urgently needs to be meaningful to what matters in local and global sustainability contexts. This entails that institutional missions embrace a collaborative, transdisciplinary, past-present-future approach with leadership and strategies informed by one-Earth thinking and pursued by topical program and exhibition experiences. No other sector of resources focused on the enhancement of lifelong learning about the world has comprehensive expertise comparable to progressive major museums.

In its conclusion, I noted: “Although the Anthropocene emphasizes environmental responsibility and encourages future thinking, nature and science museums are at their most powerful when they also integrate social responsibility and unravel past-present-future trends.” UNESCO’s invitation to our sector to focus on SDGs will hopefully stimulate all such considerations for the greater good.

Sustainable Development Goals in Science Museums


By Elis Monroy
MIDE, Museo Interactivo de Economía

MIDEWhat’s the use of science museums? Surely there are hundreds of answers to this question, but if we investigate as children do, asking one “Why?” after another, it’s certain that sooner or later, the welfare of the people will be mentioned. And it is not surprising, since this has been one of the arguments by which science itself has earned the trust and financing to become the great “company” we know today.

Currently, there are hundreds of science museums of all sizes and themes, scattered all around the world. They respond to the growing evidence about the importance of creating spaces where people can meet and interact with scientific principles and mechanisms that explain some of the most important factors in our lives, such as health, communication, and food security, among many others. Gladly, we have seen that the appearance of these museums responds to the need of having the opportunity to develop tools to make responsible decisions at a personal and collective level, and this is where the importance of acting together manifests.

In the Interactive Museum of Economics (MIDE), the first in the world to specialize in the communication of this science, we realized that communicating the most basic principles of the economy without incorporating their relationship to society and the environment represented a weakness in our speech. Therefore, in 2011 we opened our room Sustainable Development: Economy, Society and Nature in which we show how our decisions regarding consumption and production of goods and services directly impact the well-being of the planet and society, as well as the many alternatives we have to rethink the role we play in these processes.

It is from this learning that we are convinced that science museums must help address a sustainable approach to communicating a more comprehensive and inclusive vision of the world we inhabit. Adopting this approach opens the possibility of glimpsing the challenges we face as a global community, of thinking about relevant solutions to the environmental problems we are experiencing, and of engaging with the decisions and actions required to build a more just and equitable world.

Last year, 175 United Nations member countries decided to join efforts again to address the most pressing needs of humanity, and created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals resemble the Millennium Development Goals, drafted in 2000, but also incorporate new challenges which address the quality of life of the population, the welfare of many ecosystems around the world, and the continuity of economic processes.

There are many ways of interpreting the rethinking of the goals, but certainly the most important concerns a second attempt to correct the course of our goals and decisions, encouraging more and more sectors of society to commit to joining efforts to achieve significant changes in the next 15 years.

The need to address the 17 SDGs from all possible trenches caused them to be written in such a way that they are easily communicable and inclusive. They relate to familiar issues such as food security, clean water, and the welfare of the oceans, issues in which science is clearly invested and about which awareness is critical.

Achieving these SDGs requires the joint effort of all sectors comprising society and, of course, centers and science museums. While each museum has a particular subject or approach, the transformational capacity by leveraging this diversity in a joint strategy represents an unprecedented potential, such as the one needed to give the necessary push to the SDGs.

Those who inhabit the world are in a moment similar to the one in which an athlete finds him or herself before a competition to determine who gets the gold medal in his or her last Olympics. They take their position, then align their mind, breath, and every one of their muscles to achieve the challenging target in front of them. Just like that, today we have to align our efforts to achieve a goal, rather, to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, to ensure not a gold medal, but a dignified survival in our planet.

Objetivos de desarrollo sostenible en los museos de ciencia

Por Elis Monroy García
MIDE, Museo Interactivo de Economía

MIDE¿Para qué sirven los museos de ciencias? Seguramente existen cientos de respuestas a esta pregunta; pero si investigáramos como lo hacen las niñas y los niños, preguntando un por qué tras otro, es seguro que en algún momento se mencionaría el bienestar de las personas. No debería sorprendernos, ya que éste ha sido uno de los argumentos por los cuales la ciencia misma ha merecido la confianza y el financiamiento para llegar a ser la enorme empresa que hoy conocemos.

Actualmente, existen cientos de museos de ciencia, de todos tamaños y temas, esparcidos por el mundo entero. Y es que cada vez se hace más evidente la importancia de crear espacios en donde la gente se pueda acercar a conocer e interactuar con los principios y mecanismos científicos que explican algunos de los factores más importantes de nuestras vidas, como la salud, la comunicación y la seguridad alimenticia, entre muchos otros. Con gusto, hemos visto que la aparición de estos museos responde a la necesidad de que las personas cuenten con la oportunidad de conocer herramientas para tomar decisiones responsables a nivel personal y colectivo; y es aquí en donde se manifiesta la importancia de actuar de manera conjunta.

En el Museo Interactivo de Economía (MIDE), el primero del mundo en especializarse en la divulgación de esta ciencia, nos dimos cuenta de que comunicar los principios más elementales de la economía, sin incorporar la relación que guardan con la sociedad y el medio ambiente, representaba una debilidad en nuestro discurso. Por lo tanto, en 2011 inauguramos nuestra sala Desarrollo Sustentable: Economía, Sociedad y Naturaleza, en la que mostramos cómo nuestras decisiones respecto al consumo y producción de bienes y servicios impactan directamente en el bienestar del planeta y de la sociedad, así como las numerosas alternativas que tenemos para replantear el papel que jugamos dentro de estos procesos.

A partir de este aprendizaje estamos convencidos de la importancia de que los museos de ciencia retomen el enfoque de sostenibilidad para comunicar una visión más completa e incluyente del mundo en el que vivimos. Adoptar este enfoque abre la posibilidad de vislumbrar los retos que enfrentamos como comunidad global, de pensar en soluciones pertinentes a los problemas ambientales que estamos viviendo y de comprometernos con las decisiones y acciones que se requieren para construir un mundo más justo y equitativo.

El año pasado, los 175 países integrantes de la ONU ratificaron su decisión de unificar esfuerzos para atender las necesidades más apremiantes de la humanidad, y se plantearon diecisiete Objetivos del Desarrollo Sostenible (ODS). Éstos retoman los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio, redactados en el año 2000, pero también incorporan nuevos retos a los que se enfrentan los países, incluido el nuestro, y que comprometen la calidad de vida de la población, así como el bienestar de diversos ecosistemas alrededor del mundo y la continuidad de los procesos económicos.
Hay muchas formas de interpretar el replanteamiento de estos Objetivos; pero, sin duda, la más importante se refiere a un segundo intento para corregir el rumbo de nuestras metas y decisiones, promoviendo que cada vez más sectores de la sociedad se comprometan a sumar esfuerzos para lograr cambios significativos en los siguientes quince años.

La necesidad de que los diecisiete ODS sean atendidos desde todas las trincheras posibles hizo que fueran redactados de forma sencilla y clara. Se refieren a temas familiares, como las necesidades de atender la seguridad alimenticia, contar con agua limpia, o asegurar el bienestar de los océanos; temas en los que la ciencia está claramente inmiscuida y cuya concientización es fundamental para enfrentarlos.

Lograr estos ODS requiere del esfuerzo en conjunto de todos los sectores de la sociedad y, por supuesto, de los centros y museos de ciencia. Si bien cada museo cuenta con una aproximación o temática particular, la capacidad de transformación al aprovechar esta diversidad en una estrategia conjunta representa un potencial sin precedentes, tal como el que se necesita para dar el empuje necesario a los ODS.

Quienes habitamos el mundo nos encontramos en un momento parecido al de un atleta antes de la competencia que determina quién se lleva la medalla de oro de su última olimpiada. El atleta toma su posición, se prepara y entonces su mente, su respiración y cada uno de sus músculos se alinean ante el desafío que tiene enfrente. Así, hoy necesitamos alinear nuestros esfuerzos para lograr los 17 Objetivos del Desarrollo Sostenible y asegurar no una medalla de oro, sino una supervivencia digna en nuestro único planeta.


Future Earth (Research for Global Sustainability) supports the ISCSMD

Owen GaffneyFuture Earth fully supports UNESCO’s and the international network of science centres’ initiative to support the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs mark a paradigm shift in human development. They are the first acknowledgement that global sustainability is now a prerequisite for human welfare and prosperity – and global sustainability is at risk. To succeed, the goals must reach every man, woman and child. The world’s science centres and museums have a critical role to engage the public in the goals. We wish you every success!

—Owen Gaffney

ISCSMD 2016: A Global Platform for Reflection, Transformation, and Mainstreaming the SDGs in Science Centres and Science Museums

By Dr. Elizabeth Rasekoala, President, African Gong

During the recent ECSITE Annual Conference in Graz, Austria, I did allude in my keynote presentation that the sector should be wary of falling into the self-congratulation trap of using this landmark global platform of the International Science Center and Science Museum Day (ISCSMD) as simply yet another opportunity to “tell the world how wonderful science centres and science museums are.” I advocated that it should rather utilize this seminal opportunity to engage in a reflective, critical analysis of its field to undertake a listening and engagement exercise, and to take stock of the milestones reached and the many more to be achieved. In short, it should not engage in “business as usual.”

The United Nations’ (UN’s) post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Framework has elucidated the full complexity of the range, breadth, and depth of the global development challenges of the 21st century, much more so than the preceding Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were limited and narrow in their scope and application. This comprehensive SDGs framework thus illustrates that the overwhelming framing of science communication and science and society discourses, practices, and mechanisms has not served societies and communities well. Furthermore, if science communication is to be both salient and credible for a wide range of audiences and meet the needs of the diverse publics, there is a need for new ways of approaching the craft and delivery mechanisms, in order to maximize impact and enhance development gains.

The myriad and intractable development challenges to which science communication should contribute to highlighting and promoting the pivotal role of science, through developing innovations and solutions for solving challenges in society, are profound, and nowhere more so than on the African continent. However, the ubiquitous look, design, content, layouts, exhibits, materials, activities, narratives, etc. of science centres and science museums across the globe is a cause for concern and raises profound questions about the lack of creativity and innovation in the field itself. When science centres and museums in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and across the global south, look and feel exactly the same as those in the global north, then we have a real problem of the lack of diversity, socio-cultural inclusion, language diversity, localized contexts, and indigenous knowledge. Without these attributes, it is not possible to truly engage the interests, participation, and sense of ownership of communities and societies in the global south, in science centres and science museums.

In African Gong, we are working in partnership with a range of stakeholders to achieve strategic developments in science communication on the African continent on these key challenging platforms:

  • Policy Development: Few African governments have Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policies in place, and of those that do, hardly any have Science Communication as a key pillar or strand in their STI policies. This has challenging implications as to how we grow the science centre and science museum sector on the African continent;
  • Practice and Program Development: How do we develop innovative, empowering, and transformative African-centric science centres and science museums, in place of the Euro-centric ones which currently dominate and which simply further alienate African citizens, who largely see it as foreign, elitist, and intimidating from science?
  • Capacity Development: How do we grow the human capital needed for the delivery of engaging, stimulating, and sustainable science centres and science museums on the African continent?

Above all else, we wish to realize science centres and science museums which facilitate and enable the strategic positioning of science and its applications at the heart of the African sustainable development framework, hence the pivotal focus on the SDGs in this regard.

We very much welcome the focus on the SDGs for the ISCSMD and I would like to suggest the following kinds of activities to science centres and science museums, in line with this focus:

The SDG Goal 2, which aims to end hunger, is at least as concerned with politics and economics as it is with climate change and farm yields. I would like to suggest that instead of the usual narrow focus on the science of genetically-modified foods and the polarized debates which it generates, that on November 10, some science centers could actually engage in a multidisciplinary and co-generated activity involving natural and social scientists, economists, and philosophers to explore the complex nature of the inter-linkages between topics like agricultural subsidies, trade tariffs, climate change impacts, small-holder farmers versus large commercial farms, land tenure/ownership, farm yields and soil quality, post-harvest loss, food prices, food waste, agro-processing and the agricultural value chain, and how all these interlinked issues critically impact on the delivery of Goal 2. This would make for a very multi-stakeholder, multi-level, inclusive, and engaging activity!

Another suggestion would be to take on Goal 5, which is focused on gender equality. The suggestion here is that you plan over a two-week period prior to November 10, to involve visitors to your science centre/museum in an interactive exercise of gender-auditing your centre/museum: its exhibits, activities, layout, facilities, programs, narratives, etc. with fun tools such as ‘sticky dots’ (red or pink for female bias; blue or purple for male bias; and green for gender-balance). Give equal amounts of the three different color sticker dots to all the visitors coming to your centre for a period of two weeks (and also undertake daily gender monitoring of these visitors). Then, have them place these dots based on their assessments as to gender bias or otherwise, on wall mounted boards across the centre (different boards for different exhibits, activities, etc.). On November 10, share these findings with your visitors and invited gender experts and involve them in discussions, debates, and interactive activities which will enable your centre to address these issues more effectively, sustainably, and inclusively. You will be surprised at the findings and also at the excellent and creative ideas that you will get from your visitors!

I wish us all an uplifting, dynamic, and insightful ISCSMD 2016 on November 10, and hope that it will engender the sustainable transformation of the sector and field.

SAASTEC showcases the SDGs

by Derek Fish

The Southern African Association of Science and Technology Centres (SAASTEC) represents science and technology centers mostly below the equator in Africa. Formed in 1996, it holds an annual conference which will be at Unizulu Science Centre in Richards Bay, South Africa, November 7–10 this year coinciding with the host’s 30th birthday celebrations. There are also plans underway to provide a preconference training workshop to assist southern African countries keen to start science centers.

Science centers in Africa are still very undeveloped despite many efforts in the region—especially since the 2011 Science Centre World Congress was hosted in Cape Town, South Africa. SAASTEC has often struggled to get members to participate in international activities when they are struggling just to keep afloat.

SO – the theme for this year’s SAASTEC Conference is ISCSMD and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and delegates have been asked to describe how their centers or programs address one or more of the SDGs in their presentations. During the conference, about 50 delegates will showcase their response to the SDGs which are so crucial for development in Africa. These presentations will be compiled, providing a comprehensive look at how science centers in southern Africa are addressing the SDGs.

Exciting programmes are planned for Thursday, November 10, the last day of the conferenceand ISCSMD. A number of international delegates will participate at the conference (more are welcome – see below!) and virtual contact will be made with science centers worldwide during the day, perhaps as follows:

  • Morning – science centers to the east (NCSM and ASPAC)
  • Midday – science centers to the north (NAMES and ECSITE)
  • Afternoon – science centers to the west (ASTC and REDPOP)
  • SAASTEC welcomes delegates to this extremely affordable conference (registration fee is under USD 150!!) , and full details can be found at . In addition if you would like to link with our conference on ISCSMD, please contact Derek Fish on Hope to see you there!

ASTC and UNAI Launch ISCSMD Contest

Within the framework of the International Science Center and Science Museum Day, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) is collaborating with the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to hold a contest open to college and university students from Africa. Entrants are invited to submit a 500-800 word statement, in English, addressing how attaining one United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) could be facilitated by scientific inquiry and research and suggesting practical ways of doing so.

This is an opportunity to share thoughts on how to better document the SDGs and to facilitate communication and education about their objectives so that more global citizens can be mobilized for their successful achievement.

Submission deadline: June 30, 2016

Eligibility and selection process: The contest is open to students who are, on June 30, 2016, enrolled in a course of study at a college or university and who are nationals of a Member State of the African Union. The entry should be accompanied by a signed statement of a responsible official at the educational institution confirming the entrant’s status as an enrolled student and eligibility by nationality.

Ten finalists will be selected to present and further discuss their submission with the judges panel in an online seminar during the last week of July 2016. Participation in this seminar is required to be considered for the prize.

One winner will be invited to participate in the celebration of International Science Center and Science Museum Day at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, on November 10, 2016. Award: The winner will receive an official invitation letter from UNESCO. Costs for travel and a subsistence allowance to attend the event will be covered by UNESCO (economy airfare, two hotel nights, plus food and transportation). If the winner cannot travel to Paris for International Science Center and Science Museum Day on November 10, no travel/cash prize will be awarded.

How to Enter: Email the completed entry form to Walter Staveloz,, by June 30, 2016.