Knology Receives NSF Grant to Explore How People Move towards STEM-informed Action

Known for Untangling Complex Social Issues, Knology Strives to Uncover Motivators Behind Decision-Making

by Uduak Grace ThomasJena Barchas-LichtensteinJohn VoiklisJohn Fraser
Oct 7, 2021

NEW YORK, NY — Knology, a social science research organization, has received grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to design and run a workshop that will explore theories on how moral motives move people from STEM learning to STEM-informed action.

The virtual workshop, which will be held in the first quarter of 2022, will be co-led by Dr. John Voiklis, a cognitive psychologist who leads Knology’s Behaviors research, and Dr. Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein, a linguistic anthropologist who heads Knology’s Media research.

“The need to protect and help others, as well as ourselves, is a major motivator for the actions we choose. For those of us who care about promoting STEM-informed choices, a hard question is how to highlight the social and moral relevance of STEM information without moralizing,” said Dr. Voiklis. “For example, what does this mean for health reporters who hope people will comply with the latest CDC recommendation that they report on? The same is true for anyone or any organization that wants to promote STEM-informed decision making.”

The workshop will bring together science communication practitioners and researchers to offer different perspectives on an influential psychological theory, the model of moral motives, and how these affect action around STEM topics. This workshop has two goals: first, to help science communicators understand interpersonal & social motivations for learning and, second, to help researchers understand the constraints faced by science communicators.

“We’ve known for a long time that communication isn’t one-directional, and that learning is social in contexts from museums to media,” said Dr. Barchas-Lichtenstein. “This is an important opportunity to bring together and synthesize a lot of different perspectives on these issues. Researchers aren’t always aware of the practicalities, and practitioners can find it difficult to keep up on theory -- bringing them together benefits everyone.”

Knology has invited 14 experts to participate in the workshop. Participants reflect a range of disciplines including anthropology, psychology, judgment and decision-making, and a range of informal learning settings including science centers, libraries, zoos, and media. The workshop proceedings will be published and distributed as a free E-book on the Center for Advancing Informal STEM Education website and through participants’ professional societies. The co-PIs will also be available to discuss the findings.

“This is a great example of how our researchers are challenging the status quo; using data to explain how people are navigating the grand challenges of our time,” said John Fraser, CEO of Knology.

This project is funded by the NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program which among other things, seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development to STEM learning in informal environments.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact


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Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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