Dr. Ana Maria Navas Iannini on Interrelationships Among Science Museums, Education, and the Public

November 22, 2022

Dr. Ana Maria Navas Iannini joined the Faculty of Education in Fall 2022 from the University of Los Andes in Colombia. Specializing in informal science education (ISE), she brings an extensive array of graduate and undergraduate teaching and graduate mentorship experiences as well as a portfolio of research projects in collaboration with Simon Fraser University, the University of São Paulo (Brazil) and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education - University of Toronto, where she received her PhD in 2017.

While Dr. Navas Ianinni’s teaching experience has predominantly focused on science education in formal settings, she describes herself as “passionate” about researching ISE, particularly museums and other public venues. As she describes her process and goals,

I have been looking at the work of science museums through different angles and critical perspectives . . . [including] progressive views of scientific literacy, socioscientific issues, public engagement with science and technology, and, more recently, collective mindfulness in organizations.

To offer further insights into what constitutes scientific literacy, Dr. Navas Iannini is principal investigator for a pilot qualitative research project at SFU’s Faculty of Education, examining socioscientific issues, mindfulness, and activism in Canadian science museums. Shaped and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, this project’s scope includes examining specific public programs related to this complex issue (e.g., webinar series, town halls, community programs, science cafes, exhibits, online educational materials). As Dr. Navas Iannini notes, such programming “reflects awareness of and reaction to the present moment, to what is happening around us globally and locally.” She is intrigued by the ways in which these initiatives have not only expanded institutional mandates but, as she puts it, “allowed for allyship with diverse communities and for the creation of epistemological spaces.”

Dr. Navas Iannini collaborated with the University of Toronto on a SSHRC-funded project concerning controversial science exhibitions—specifically, museums professionals’ and visitors’ perspectives about displays engaging with complex topics such as mental health, biodiversity, teen pregnancy, and sustainability. Recently, she was principal investigator for “Public Engagement and Socio-Scientific issues: Examining the Role of the Informal Science Education Sector” at Los Andes University.

To share her insights about interrelationships among science museums, education, and the public, Dr. Navas Iannini has recently co-authored four books—including Controversy in Science Museums: Reimagining Exhibition Spaces and Practice (2020)—and three book chapters as well as a solo chapter, and has published articles in the International Journal of Science Education - Part B, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, and the Canadian Journal of Science Mathematics and Technology Education, among others. Her publications explore a wide range of ways in which informal science education has, might, and perhaps should engage learners of all ages, using a variety of informal spaces.

At SFU, her plans are unfolding to research Canadian and international science museums. Dr. Navas Iannini sees this next project as the initial stage of developing a body of research about science museums as they commit to social responsibility, reflexibility, and civic participation. “In this sense,” she says, “the project will open a novel angle for studying ISE settings.”