Science Learning+ is an international initiative established between the Wellcome Trust, the US-based National Science Foundation and the UK-based Economic and Social Research Council, in collaboration with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Noyce Foundation. It aims to make a transformational step to improve the knowledge base and practice of informal science experiences, to better understand, strengthen and coordinate their vital role in science engagement and learning.

More specifically, the initiative aims:
1. To strengthen the research and knowledge base by:

  • researching the value and impacts of informal science experiences, especially upon young people aged from birth to 19 years
  • developing a theoretical understanding of the processes which lead to these impacts
  • developing better methodologies to measure the impacts of informal science experiences, especially upon learning and mediation of learning
  • building research capacity in informal science learning.

2. To bridge the practice and research gap by:

  • increasing partnerships, understanding and influence between researchers and practitioners
  • developing collaborations among institutions and individuals engaged in informal science experiences
  • communicating and documenting the outcomes of research and translating them into practice.

3. To share knowledge and experience by:

  • encouraging the sharing of knowledge and skills relating to informal science learning - between researchers and practitioners, across different countries (particularly the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the USA), and across different areas of research expertise

 In a review funded by the Wellcome Trust, Lloyd et al. (2012) have identified a number of characteristics of informal science learning:

  • It takes place outside of the formal curriculum, is non-compulsory and is not formally accredited, and while capable of reinforcing formal learning, this is not its core purpose
  • It can take place in a range of settings outside of educational institutions
  • It can inspire, stimulate interest in, encourage positive attitudes towards and lead to a more thorough understanding of science
  • It features learning that can be unstructured, unguided and led by the interests of the individual
  • It can feature ‘learning by stealth’, where people learn without it being a primary motivation for them.

Other Science Learning + projects

There are 11 other Science Learning + projects, which address other aspects of informal science learning.  The British Science Association is involved in two other Science Learning + initiatives.