Project Summary

This proposal describes a new approach to the dissemination of science information to adults and the encouragement of lifelong scientific literacy.

As outlined in an article in Curator (Miller, 2010), we are in the midst of a fundamental change in the ways that adults acquire information. For centuries, we have thought about education and learning in a warehouse model. In this model, teachers and other knowledgeable persons communicate information that they believe to be valuable and expect learners to retain that information in their mental warehouse. In the future, an individual may need to recall this information from their mental warehouse and use it to understand a current problem. In recent decades, spurred by the Internet, the warehouse model has become problematic. In short, we push more and more information into the warehouse system and surveys demonstrate that a relatively low proportion of these messages are retained.

A just-in-time system has been functioning in health information acquisition for two decades and the evidence suggests that it provides an effective flow of information for a growing number of people. Today, an overwhelming majority of adults report that they seek health information online and major federal agencies such as the National Cancer Institute have turned to as a major public information outlet. For more sophisticated users, the National Institutes of Health operates which provides public access to medical journals. In the commercial realm, web sites such as and provide important inquiry-driven access to health information.

This proposal describes a five-year developmental sequence that will seek to establish a baseline system to measure science information acquisition among adults (including college students) and to initiate a series of online portals that would be designed to provide accurate and reliable responses to questions and problems that adults encounter and for which they need an answer that involves scientific information that might be provided by members of a proposed network of university faculty, professional associations, NASA SMEs, and informal science educators (in museums, television groups, and online sites of various kinds).

Adult access to the Internet and related electronic communication technologies has growth dramatically in recent decades. At least 75% of American adults now have some level of electronic information access through smart phones, tablets, notebook computers, and desktop computers at work or at home. Scientific literacy should be seen as one of the tools that adults need to make sense of electronic information systems once they have access. Access is the first step; comprehension is the second step.

Programmatically, the proposed Michigan Demonstration Project will develop and launch a set of portals that will make it each for interested adults to find the entry portal and then proceed through a set of inquiries about the topics on which they need or want additional information. The proposed MDP will make extensive use of existing NASA SMD expertise and materials, but would re-orient some of this material inquiry and response mode from its current expository mode. This just-in-time system will demonstrate the feasibility and effectiveness of inquiry-based information dissemination and will become a model for other agencies and organizations engaged in the dissemination of science information and the advancement of scientific literacy.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration


  • Jon D. Miller

Project Period

2016-01-04 - 2021-01-03