My research focuses on authenticity in informal science education in two areas: real objects in museums and citizen science.
Authenticity in museums
“Is it real?” is one of the most heard questions in science museums. Science museums consider it important to make sure visitors can experience real objects and real phenomena. But there is not much empirical evidence on why authenticity is important, how visitors perceive authentic objects, or how it affects their experience. In a research collaboration with Naturalis Biodiversity Center, I am studying these questions. We are studying how visitors perceive real objects versus replicas. And we are experimenting with different ways to support the interaction of visitors with real objects, e.g. through questions on object labels.
When citizens are collaborating with scientists in research projects, we call that citizen science. A few examples of citizen science projects are national bird counts, water quality monitoring by volunteers, or online analysis of satellite images looking for galaxies. Although the concept of volunteers contributing to scientific research is not new, the opportunities for citizen science have increased tremendously over the last decades. New technologies such as internet, and smartphones have made it easier to collaborate with large groups of citizens. Citizen science projects usually have two different goals: scientific output (data, analyses) for the scientists, and outreach/learning for the citizens. I am interested in the latter and studying motivation and learning outcomes of citizen scientists. I am collaborating with different CS projects (iSPEX, Grote Griepmeting, Schone Rivieren) to study why citizen scientists participate in these projects, and what they get out of them.