Pacific Science Center

Bringing science to life.

Evaluation & Audience Research

The Evaluation Department at Pacific Science Center aims to accurately collect and reflect the voices of our guests and stakeholders. Your feedback is used to continually assess and improve our programs and exhibits in order to ensure that we are providing relevant, inspiring experiences.

We are always developing new exhibits and programs and need your input. Here you can find a variety of surveys where you are encouraged to share your experience with, and ask questions about, a variety of science topics. Surveys generally take 5-10 minutes to complete, depending on how opinionated you’re feeling. A few weeks after each survey closes, you can visit this page to read about the findings and see how your answers compared with the rest of the responses. Take the July survey now.

To learn more about evaluation at Pacific Science Center email evaluation@pacsci.org. If you’d like to be part of the process, consider applying to be a Data Squad Volunteer.

Take Our Current Survey | July 2015

Help us prepare for a new Science On a Sphere demonstration. Take the survey by July 31. Check back soon for the findings.

Virtual Comment Card | Always Open!

Are you feeling opinionated? Got something to get off your chest? Like taking surveys? Love those tiny little golf pencils? If so, you’re in the right place. There aren’t any golf pencils here, but there is a virtual comment card for your most recent trip to Pacific Science Center. Tell us what you love, tell us what you strongly dislike… tell us what you really think.

Like Riding a Bicycle | April 2015

Without thinking, could you explain to a child or friend how to tie shoelaces or a tie, play a video game with a complicated controller or perform songs on a piano or guitar? You probably can, but isn’t it so much easier to show someone and just let your body do those things automatically? The phenomenon of muscle memory will be the subject of our next Portal to Current Research exhibit. To help get a sense of how this topic might relate to Science Center fans, we sent out a Survey of the Month in April.

The most common experiences respondents had with their muscles “remembering” how to do something involved sports, daily tasks and playing music. One example was so common and personally relevant, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it already:

“Every time I take stairs. It’s only when I think about going up or down stairs that I get really clumsy about it. My brain/muscles know what to do. Also, if a stair rise is weird, like being in a foreign country with different rise standards, I have a tendency to trip easily because it’s not what my brain/body are used to.”

How do our muscles and brains do that? How can we improve our memories and learn habits more effectively? What does repetition have to do with it all? These questions came up often amongst the 47 survey respondents. Almost everyone (96%) was “somewhat” or “very curious” about muscle memory so our latest brain science exhibit (opening September 2015) should be a hit.

POW! Local Technology Fights Cancer | March 2015

Last year, the Evaluation Department asked Science Center staff, Members, and a group of Studio exhibit super-users what topics they would like to see a current health research exhibit on. Some of the most commonly requested topics like allergies or the human microbiome are or will be on display soon. One subject that was mentioned by all three audiences was cancer. But it’s a gigantic, complicated and emotional topic that we were unsure we’d be able to tackle in a 500 square foot exhibit.

All the past survey respondents proved a point, however – people are curious. And exciting things are happening with cancer research, especially here in Seattle.

The Winter/Spring 2016 Studio exhibit will focus on cancer-fighting technology and we polled e-news readers and social media followers in March to help us develop the exhibit content. Compared to many topics we’ve asked about in the past, knowledge and understanding of cancer treatments in general was low, with respondents averaging a 3.7 on a scale of 1-7. Specifically, proton therapy, immunotherapy, and genetic sequencing were either completely foreign or only familiar in name to most respondents.

The questions that respondents to this survey had about cancer, its treatment, and the research process were incredibly thoughtful and far too numerous to summarize here. If you had the opportunity to be one of the folks to write in a question, your curiosity and acknowledgement of weighty topics (and even underlying ethics) is genuinely appreciated. To learn more about Seattle-based cancer research, visit the Science Center in January 2016.

Final Sphere Demo Topic Survey | February 2015

The final Science On a Sphere demonstration that will be developed as part of our Exploring Earth Systems Science grant (funded by IMLS – Museums for America) will focus on climate change. One of the measurable effects of our changing climate is the level of carbon dioxide in both the ocean and atmosphere and our spherical projection system is a great way to display those data sets. For our February Survey of the Month, 75 folks weighed in and provided very thoughtful and insightful feedback. If you were one of them, thank you!

We wanted to know:

  1. What readers knew about the role carbon dioxide plays in climate change (one quarter identified carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and another fifth knew that it had something to do with the ozone layer)
  2. The degree to which they were worried about environmental changes (23% are “more than a little worried,” 33% are “very worried,” and 18% are “extremely worried” about climate change)
  3. Their ideas for community-based solutions (improving public transit – and using it, consuming less, and making widespread education a priority).

We hope to help with the education suggestions – be sure to look for a free climate change Science On a Sphere demonstration at the Science Center this summer!

Ch-ch-ch-cha-changes! | January 2015

For Science On a Sphere demonstration number eight, Science Interpreters will show how Earth undergoes naturally occurring cycles like seasons, which in turn influence weather and the migration patterns of animals.

Just under half (44%) of January’s survey respondents felt they could just crudely explain what causes seasons, so the demonstration will help guests visualize that process. Migration was a familiar concept to respondents; almost everyone (94%) used the words “movement,” “travel,” or “relocate” in their explanation. After defining concepts, the demonstration might then explore examples of animals that migrate, possibly focusing on the most commonly mentioned animals from our survey responses: whales (especially humpback and orca), geese (in particular those rascally Canadian geese) or butterflies (which ties in well with our Tropical Butterfly House).

When given the option to ask questions regarding the changes our planet experiences, respondents had over 100 unique queries! Some questions were able to be lumped into discrete themes such as:

  • Now versus then (how cycles have changed over time)
  • Here versus there (why some parts of the planet have more intense seasons than others)
  • Geology (“What’s up with magnetic pole reversal?”)

To find out how many of your questions we’re able to address in one 20-minute show, check out a free Science On a Sphere “Earth Changes” demonstration this summer.

Cold + Bears + Ice = Polar Regions | December 2014

The seventh Science On a Sphere demo will transport guests to the icy, white worlds of Earth’s polar regions. This survey focused on reader’s knowledge of sea ice, particularly because there are some great data sets available from NOAA to display.

To introduce the topic, we asked respondents whether they preferred the Arctic or Antarctica. There were no parameters to the choice – just a snap judgment with an option to explain why. Readers had a preference 60% of the time and they were divided right down the middle as far as north versus south pole. Folks liked the Arctic because they thought it was “more alive” or was closer to home and it was somewhere they “might actually visit someday.” Those who favored Antarctica appreciated that there is solid ground to walk on as well as “PENGUINS!”

Curiosity about this topic reached an all-time high, with 93% of respondents being either “somewhat” or “very curious” about the region. Self-rated knowledge was a little lower than for other topics too, 3.57 out of 7. Learn more about our fascinating polar regions at a Science On a Sphere show!

Katrina, David, and You | November 2014

Our sixth Science On a Sphere demonstration will have to do with all things hurricanes. While we may not be directly affected by many of these weather events in the Pacific Northwest, it turns out that over one-quarter of respondents to this survey have lived through a hurricane!

When you hear the word “hurricane,” what do you think of? Respondents often mentioned things that hurricanes are or do; “rain,” “wind,” “storm” and “destruction” were common words. Newsworthy events like recent disasters (David, Katrina) or commonly affected locations came up (Florida, Galveston) too. The impacts on people were another common theme: “people hurt,” “destroyed homes,” “empty streets” and “scary” all came to mind.

This information, combined with the dozens of questions that respondents asked, will help us design a show that quickly addresses what guests already think and know before moving on to explain how, where, and why hurricanes occur. We look forward to seeing YOU at one of our fun and interactive sphere demonstrations!

Explore the full write-up of the survey.

Weather = Rain In Seattle | November 2014

In November, we began a bi-weekly survey initiative to collect feedback from our followers to help us prepare for our newest live shows, which feature our Science On a Sphere exhibit. The 20-minute interactive demonstrations use our six-foot global display system (i.e. the floating sphere outside the Willard Smith Planetarium) to illustrate and explain Earth Systems topics such as volcanos, oceans, polar regions and yes, even weather. Our Science Interpreters will use real-time and archived data sets provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as feedback from these surveys to develop their presentations. That’s why we are asking what you already know and what you want to know.

The first topic that we needed to gather your input on was for our demo on weather and climate. Most respondents rated their own knowledge or understanding of weather and climate about the same, a 4.3 out of 7 for the former and a 4.0 out of 7 for the latter.

“Rain,” “sun,” and “unpredictable” were commonly associated with weather, while “forecasting” and local weather anchors were also mentioned. The word climate brought to mind “change” most of all, but also “average,” and “global” and there were words that indicated concern, worry or skepticism. Climate seemed to provoke more emotional responses.

While the word associations were fairly straight-forward, the questions that people had were wide-ranging. Even those of you who are pilots that regularly study the weather are interested in learning more! Several dozen questions were asked, including the differences between weather and climate, what causes unusual weather events (like that waterspout in Pierce County!), or why cities on similar latitudes on the east coast have such different weather. Many were also curious about both the effects that changing weather may have on the Pacific Northwest as well the extent to which we have perhaps changed the climate.

We hope to address as many of your questions as possible with our fifth Science On a Sphere demonstration. Look for it on the exhibit floor in January 2015.

small, secret, surprising | August-September 2014

Over the summer we sent out a survey to assess current understanding and degree of curiosity about the Human Microbiome. Responses were fun to read through, with one person sharing that the first thing that came to mind when they heard the word “microbiome” was: “I need a magic school bus episode.” Other folks said, “gut, poop (sorry), medicine, yogurt,” “creepy, necessary, tiny, varied,” and “small, secret, surprising.”

On the quantitative side of things, about one-fifth of respondents said they hadn’t heard of the microbiome before while almost half rated their current knowledge of it at a 3 or 4 out of 7. View the survey results.

These findings are helping the exhibit development team craft a Big Idea and story line for our seventh Studio exhibit – opening in Wellbody Academy June 2015.

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