Research Spotlight

Although many science centers currently have audience-focused data efforts in place, the majority of these are limited to unique exhibits, programs or shows; those that consider the visit as a whole are isolated to individual organizations with limited capability for sharing findings across sites. Through the Collaboration for Ongoing Visitor Experience Studies (COVES) project, a 3-year National Leadership Grant funded by IMLS, the Museum of Science (MOS) has collaborated with ASTC and eight partner science centers to form a system designed to support organizations in systematically collecting data from visitors in a way that would enable each organization to make use of these data to inform institutional decision-making, while also allowing for cross-organizational sharing of findings to inform the broader field.

This work follows a forum hosted by MOS in August of 2013, in which 27 museum professionals from 11 science centers ranging in size, community context and evaluation capacity, as well as 3 industry-leading organizations, came together to elaborate the various objectives, outcomes and potential pitfalls of a collaborative endeavor such as this. Over two days, these individuals contributed thoughts informed by diverse experiences and expert opinions, and eventually reached the consensus that this type of collective data effort was not only worthwhile for participating institutions, but necessary for the science center field as a whole. The results of the forum are broadly outlined in this white paper.

If you are interested in learning more, we encourage you to read the white paper and become involved Contact Ryan Auster or Michelle Kenner for more information and to stay informed as COVES moves forward.