IntroductionAs the fierce global competition fortechnological advances and intellectual property drive the knowledge-basedeconomy, countries around the world are realizing the importance of science,technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education (Lemelson-MIT Program. (2010, January 29). Survey revealsways to enhance teens’ interest in science, technology, engineering, andmathematics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2017, fromwww.sciencedaily.
com/releases/2010/01/100128091744.htm). In Canada, theMinister of Science, Kristy Duncan, stresses the importance of encouraginginnovation to drive and sustain our knowledge economy through essentialbreakthroughs in the STEM disciplines. In particular, Duncan emphasizes theimportance of fostering a culture of curiosity for knowledge and innovation inCanada’s youth population (http://www.huffingtonpost.
ca/kirsty-duncan-/canadian-science-odyssey_b_16625228.html?utm_hp_ref=ca-stem-education).The Canadian government has and continues to organize and support variousinitiatives such as Canada 2067, Youth STEM, and Science Odyssey to equipOntario youth with creative minds and strong 21st century skills to shapethe future of STEM (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/owen-charters/kids-first-federal-budget_b_15548940.html?utm_hp_ref=ca-stem-education). It is not only in Duncan’s mandate but in theagenda’s of many organizations, companies, and school boards, to promote andencourage an education and career in STEM.
OntarioResearch FundThrough the Ontario Research Fund, theMinistry of Research, Innovation, and Science (MRIS) is responsible forsupporting Ontario’s research institutions, achieve world-class researchexcellence, and build research capacity within the province and throughinternational collaboration. The Ontario Research Fund is a research fundingmechanism that the provincial government uses in order to maximize the impactof research projects and ensure they provide strategic value to the province (http://www.infogo.gov.on.ca/infogo/#orgProfile/4086/en). There are three different programs underthe Ontario Research Fund (ORF) supporting researchers at different stages intheir careers; however, the two that will be discussed in this report are theOntario Research Fund – Research Excellence (ORF-RE) program and the EarlyResearcher Awards (ERA). The ORF-REprogram provides funding to support the operational costs of large-scale researchof strategic value for established researchers based in Ontario (https://www.
ontario.ca/page/ontario-research-fund-research-excellence). The Early Researcher Awards program providesfunding for new researchers working atpublicly funded Ontario research institutions to build their research team andtrain highly qualified personnel (HQP) (https://www.ontario.ca/page/early-researcher-awards).
In both these ORF programs, there is ayouth outreach and engagement section in the program guideline that researchersare required to complete in their proposals. This component of the application servesto uphold the minister’s mandate on cultivating that culture of curiosity forknowledge amongst youth in Ontario (https://www.ontario.ca/page/research-funding). Althoughthe primary target for this outreach component is high school students, as theyare the more responsive to comprehensive mentoring experiences, youth isdefined as students in grade one through grade twelve (MRIS, 2017). The youth engagement section is considered aspart of the adjudication process under research impact which motivatesapplicants to carefully consider their youth outreach plan and activities (https://www.
ontario.ca/page/research-funding). Fundedprojects are required to provide the ministry with reports on progress, milestones,and outcomes regarding their funded projects as well as their youth outreachplan to ensure they are delivering what they have written in their applications(MRIS, 2017). Youth Engagement and OutreachThe youth engagement in the ResearchExcellence and ERA research programs has been a part of the programrequirements since 2005-6. In the mid 2000’s Ontario’s flagship youthengagement program, Youth Science and Technology Program (YSTOP), was losingmomentum; however, many other organizations dedicated to promoting youthoutreach in the STEM field had been actively engaging youth. Many institutions hostedopen house and visit programs, facilitating and promoting youth engagement inthe sciences Ontario. For the Ministry, the requirement of a youth engagementcomponent for funded projects has a number of benefits (MRIS, 2017). Firstly,it ensures youth engagement in Ontario funded research projects, in the absenceof a specific program with that mandate, with a very modest allocation ofresources.
Secondly, it prompts researcher to engage with programs like Let’sTalk Science and Science Rendezvous that specialize in delivering excitinghands-on STEM learning experiences to children and youth (http://outreach.letstalkscience.ca/). Lastly, it encourages creative and costs effectiveactivities and approaches. The ORF- RE application requires adetailed Youth Outreach Plan. The program allows for the allocation of up to1%of the project budget towards outreach; however, the allocation of funds is nota requirement. The ERA program also allows for an allocation of up to 1% of theOntario funding (up to a maximum of $1000) towards Youth Outreach Plan.
Proposals must outline a detailed plan and include allocation of funding theproposed budget. Researchers have a great deal of flexibilitywhen it comes to their approach to designing a youth outreach plan as there area variety of ways to engage youth. On the integratestudents into their projects.For those researchers who cannot , they couldinvolve graduate students in outreach program design and delivery.
Applicantscan engage youth audience Researchers can: engage youth audiences as well as educators and the general public both on-campus and in the local community expand on current outreach activities, or start new initiatives with an emphasis on activities that are free to youth and the public partner with other researchers in their institution(s) to undertake a broader outreach initiative participate in outreach activities operated by other organizations, such as science awareness organizations involve graduate students in outreach program design and delivery apply provincial contributions to expenses incurred in developing and delivering the outreach activity, e.g. consumable supplies, development of working models, mileage Outreach activities can also include such initiatives as speaking opportunities, lecture series, workshops and demonstrations, student competitions and lab mentorship.
· (https://www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-research-fund-research-excellence-program-guidelines) Comparing Ontario’s Approach with a Jurisdictional Survey (Appendix A)Ajurisdictional review identified a wide variety of outreach programs aimed atyouth. The most common approach to youth outreach internationally was throughprograms that resembled Canada’s “Let’s Talk Science” program with a mandate toraise the profile of STEM, supporting outreach and organizing events at publicUniversities.(2) These agencies and organizations often resemble Let’sTalk Science with a similar blend of public, private and charitable funding,and a similar mandate.(3) The NIH funds a variety of youth outreach projectswhich are generally defined by an area of research, for example the (***NIHCANCER****) and a targeted group (youth at risk, minority communities).
Theseprojects follow the promotion and facilitation model.A notable exception to this isthe UK, where a public outreach component is required for projects from theapplication stage. (4) While youth engagement is not exclusively required, atleast one funding line (the Science and Technology Facilities Council) have a youthengagement option, with a budget of up to £600 (~$1000 CAD) available forengagement activities aimed at youth (5). A review of national researchfunding had scant reference to youth engagement at the program level.(6) Let’s Talk Science and Science Rendezvous are largest national profile.
A brief youth enegagament survey was done to evaluate andcompare the outreach programs other jurisdictions in Canada and globally. A review ofnational and international jurisdictions was made of research funding programslooking for a youth engagement requirements/suggestions in the program andapplication guidelines. We also looked for programs that followed the promotionand facilitation model seemed to be funded through a mix of public, private andcharitable sources. In Canada areview of Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec was undertaken.
Each province’s”Let’s Talk Science” program was included to highlight the institutions engagedin each jurisdiction. Internationally areview of Australia, Bermuda, Ireland, United Kingdom, and the United Stateswas done, where application/program guidelines were reviewed for requirementsto engage in either broad public or specific youth engagement. Programs thatfollow the promotion and facilitation model were noted when found.In BC for example, B.C.
Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF): The BCKDFis the government’s primary capital investment to support of researchinfrastructure in B.C. The BCKDF provides funding for public post-secondaryinstitutions, research hospitals and affiliated non-profit agencies. Guidelinesdo not refer to youth or general community outreach. http://www2.
C.Research and Innovation Investments: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/about-the-bc-government/technology-innovation/research-and-innovation-investmentsYouthEngagement Toolkit: The Toolkit was designed to support BC Government Ministry staffand community partners to engage young people at an organizational level andmake them genuine partners in their work. It does not specifically referenceSTEM programs or research projects for youth; however, the province of B.C. hashelped develop this toolkit for any organization to better facilitate youthengagement.
http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/family-and-social-supports/data-monitoring-quality-assurance/information-for-service-providers/youth_engagement_toolkit_overview.pdfLet`s TalkScience Outreach: Classroom and community visits to deliver curriculum-alignedactivities.
Customized workshops are tailored to different STEM-related topicsof interests for youth (preschool to grade 12). Activities are run jointly bySimon Fraser University, University of Victoria and University of BritishColumbiahttp://outreach.letstalkscience.
ca/category/british-columbia.html Conclusions Thenumber of young Ontarians exposed to the work and methods of scientists throughthe ERA and RE programs is substantial. The number of researchers willing to donumerous and varied outreach activities over the life of their projects in bothprograms is encouraging. While institutional open house events and Let’s TalkScience were both common activities, very few projects limited their activitiesto just these events. Given the very modest budget usage (with only 1 in 4projects using the full $1000 available in ERA and XXX using the full % in RE)the outcomes reported are quite striking. In 2015-16 Let’s Talk Science engaged260,000 students nationally. Based on reporting ERA and RE engaged around60,000 students each year since 2006. Given this the two programs have engaged~120,000 students over 2015-16 just in Ontario.
Projects using Let’s TalkScience partner for activities will be double counted in this comparison, butboth programs utilized Let’s Talk Science at 5% of their total activities.Whatseems clear is the requirement of youth engagement planning at the proposalstage of a project, with the provision of some funds, cab produce remarkableresults. Recommendations As the Ontario Research Fund Programs are under review,there are many questions as to how youth engagement can be improved or if itshould be kept as a required component at all. Looking at some facts and statistics, it is safe to say that the outreachis successful:Total number of Ontario Elementary and High School students engaged inORF-RE and ERA outreach to date: 585,000Number of ORF-RE and ERA research team members involved in outreachactivities to date: 6000Other individuals engaged (including teachers, undergraduate students andthe general public other than high school and elementary students): 97,000 Somesuggested areas for further consideration/discussion: Provision for extra expenses above 1% where rural and/or northern communities are targeted An online resource for applicants with some outstanding ideas and creative activities A survey /interview looking for stories and reflections from recipients. Ensuring youth engagement is an important part of the roadshow information sessions and materials Seeking adjudication expert/panel input and comments where possible. Weighing the value of internships, placements and mentorships, which would produce lower numbers but should produce higher quality out comes (See: Hynenen’s projects) References