Science Learning+: Collaborative Adventures in Informal Science Learning and Practice

Creating and fostering research-practice partnerships that highlight the value of informal science learning (ISL)

What is Informal Science Learning (ISL)

Informal learning experiences – like visiting museums, meeting scientists, watching YouTube videos and playing games – offer huge potential for young people to engage with and learn about science in a way that works for them.

Why is ISL important? 

All young people deserve to be inspired by science and to see its relevance to them. Young people spend up to 80% of their time outside of school and therefore they it is important that they have many opportunities to learn about science in informal settings. 

Wellcome research shows that informal science learning may be particularly beneficial for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are more likely to find science subjects challenging and unengaging at school. 

What is Science Learning+

Science Learning+ (SL+) was an open call for proposals for Planning and Partnership Grants, through an international partnership between the National Science Foundation, Wellcome Trust and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). 

The initiative aimed to create and foster research-practice partnerships in informal science learning (ISL), including strengthening the research and knowledge base, bridging the gap between practice and research, and sharing knowledge and experience in informal STEM experiences. It also sought to support practice-based research in several priority areas such as engagement, skills development; equity, diversity, and access to informal science learning settings.  

Five projects were funded in 2017, and included collaborations between at least one organisation in the US and one in the UK or Republic of Ireland. The funded projects spanned a range of topics:

  • Partnering for equitable STEM pathways for underrepresented youth

  • STEM Teens: Examining the role of youth educators as learners and teachers in informal STEM learning sites

  • Understanding the role of gesture in pre-school children's learning about science in informal settings

  • Youth learning in public participation in STEM research opportunities, facilitated by natural history museums

  • Broadening Participation in STEM through transdisciplinary youth development activities

The next steps 

The NCCPE along with the British Science Association (BSA) and NatCen Social Research (NatCen), have taken over the final phase of the programme from Wellcome. In this phase, we will work with the projects to draw on the lessons learnt and maximise the impact of learning and outputs.This includes engaging with both established and new stakeholders, including practitioners, producers, funders and decision-makers, to advocate for more support, funding and investment in informal science learning. 

We look forward to sharing more with you as we develop content and outputs. Watch this space!


For all enquiries, please contact Sian Aggett at