Developing and Researching Youth-Driven Media that Highlights Science as an Act of Service During a Public Health Crisis
During the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous media sources have placed a spotlight on the critical role of science and scientists in promoting public health. In contrast to many existing media sources that portray images of adult scientists, this project will develop media that portrays youth scientists as they conduct scientific research related to COVID-19. This media will be developed based on the findings from focus groups with youth of color, and it will include features that are designed to encourage youth to see the value of science while envisioning themselves as participants in science. These features include showing first-person narratives of youth of color; portraying science as a team endeavor; and framing science as an act of service to local communities and to society at large. After developing a video with these features, researchers at the University of Oregon Eugene will share the video with youth of color who will share their responses in focus groups. This project will broaden participation in science career pathways by advancing knowledge of the features of media that motivate youth to pursue science careers and career pathways. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers. Researchers at the University of Oregon Eugene will conduct focus groups with 30 high school students who identify with races or ethnicities that are underrepresented in STEM careers. These focus groups will include reflections related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the purpose of science. Informed by data from these focus groups, undergraduate students in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication will use footage from professional and student scientists conducting research related to COVID-19, as well as first-person narratives from high school students, to produce a new video titled “Science as Service.” This video will highlight the global, community-focused, service-oriented nature of science as conducted by diverse teams. The research team will then conduct a qualitative study to determine how youth from underrepresented groups respond to this new video by conducting focus groups with 30 high school students who identify with races or ethnicities that are underrepresented in STEM careers. These focus groups, conducted after the students watched the video, will be designed to elicit aspects of the students’ perceptions of science, science identities, and motivations to pursue science. A constant comparative analysis will illustrate how youth perceived science and their motivations to pursue science careers and career pathways relative to the video. Empirical findings will be shared in empirical journals, while the video will be disseminated widely through existing national networks and organizations. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.