Science in Vivo phase II

The Science In Vivo project is a multi-year exploration of the integration of in-person science engagement into the normal course of people’s lives. This project, now in its second phase, includes financial and professional development support for a total of 16 sites in the United States and Canada that will create science experiences reaching people where they already are. These sites will be selected via the application process described below.

Building from
Phase I to Phase II

The first phase of Science In Vivo established situated engagement as a practice. Learn more about what situated engagement is in the video above, and by exploring this site.

In that first phase, we explored and experimented with situated engagement in many different contexts and settings. The second phase of Science In Vivo focuses on five pre-determined categories of settings: 

1. Science on Parade (2 sites currently available)

2. Con_Science (2 sites currently available)

3. Neighborhood Science (not currently available)

4. Pop Up Retail as Science Engagement (not currently available)

5. Cultural Festivals (1 site currently available)

The first four categories are documented on this site. The fifth, "Cultural Festivals," is about integrating activity into festivals organized around a local cultural or ethnic identity.

Phase I demonstrated that it is nearly impossible to practice situated engagement without developing community relationships. However, because much of the site work on Phase I took place in the fall of 2019, the pandemic made it very difficult to see where the momentum of that relationship building went. Phase II provides the chance to be much more deliberate in this relationship building. We are currently seeking expressions of interest from Science Festival Alliance members interested in using situated engagement in the categories above. This time, we are less interested in establishing situated engagement as a concept, and much more invested in learning more about how to use this practice to develop reciprocal, mutually beneficial community relationships. At the heart of this new phase of work are the Community Exchange Sites described below.  

Phase II: Community exchange sites

Phase II offers an opportunity for Science Festival Alliance members to dig deeper into relationships with local community organizations. These sites will work with a community collaborator organization to create at least two events:

  • a science experience fully integrated into a community gathering, and
  • a community experience fully integrated into a science festival.

While each Community Exchange site may end up involving more than two collaborators, the same core collaborators should be involved in these two different events.  

Ten Community Exchange Sites will be selected. Ideally, each of the five categories of situated engagement listed above will be represented by two sites, but the application process will prioritize the potential for reciprocal exchange between a science-first initiative and community groups.

Selected projects will receive

  • $15,000 in funding for the project activities, to be shared with a collaborating community organization(s)
  • Personalized help identifying (if necessary) and working with a local community organization
  • One on one coaching throughout the planning and implementation of both events
  • Support for documentation of your activity (possibly including an assigned videographer)
  • Observation and critique of at least one of the two events by subject-area experts, including a two-hour feedback session facilitated by Science in Vivo project staff


  • At least one public science engagement experience integrated into the context of an existing public gathering
  • At least one community experience event integrated into the context of a public science event 
  • Attendance at coaching meetings throughout the planning term
  • Participation in a limited number of check-in calls about project planning
  • Coordination with observers assigned to critique your activity on-site, including introductory calls, meeting on site if appropriate, and participation in a two-hour feedback session after the event is completed

About Science in Vivo and Situated Engagement

We've been doing science outreach for a long time, so we're used to going where the people are. Bringing the educational experiences we've created out into the world is a great way to reach people. Setting up a good community outreach table at a crowded event will keep you busy interacting with people all day.

In fact, this keeps us so busy "doing science" that we rarely get the chance to pick our heads up. When we do have a pause in the action we stay close to our designated spaces. To leave our posts would seem irresponsible...

...but some of us wandered off anyway.

As it turns out, wandering off from our spaces forces us to put down the teaching tools we're used to using: our hands-on activities, our demos and diagrams, our usual bag of tricks. This means we are finally free to stop, look around, notice what everyone else is actually doing, and find ways to join in.

We call joining in like this "situated engagement." If community outreach is about going where the people are, then situated engagement is about taking the next step and doing what the people do.

Since 2017, Science In Vivo has supported teams across the U.S. as they find new ways to integrate science engagement into existing public gatherings. While these teams all have experience with community outreach, Science In Vivo asked them to go beyond business-as-usual and find ways to participate in culturally meaningful ways. If community outreach is about leaving home base to go where the people are, situated engagement is about taking the next step and doing what the people do.

About the team

Science In Vivo is a project of the Experimental Practice team at the MIT Museum, which also manages the Science Festival Alliance. Science In Vivo Phase II is supported by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation initiative dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be a member of the Science Festival Alliance to apply?

Yes, currently your team must be affiliated with either a member Festival or an organization that is a major collaborator with a member Festival to apply to Science in Vivo.

Can my team apply if we weren’t involved in the Science in Vivo phase one?

Yes, these applications are open to all science engagement teams, regardless of past participation.

Why do we have to split the funds we receive with a community organization?

In order for your project to be a success, you will need to ask a community partner to put in significant work.

What does observation and critique entail?

A section on our About page describes this process further. It is an involved process that will require your support, but Science In Vivo staff will do all of the logistical work that we can to make this painless and rewarding. We understand that event organizers are busy during events!

Do I need to have identified a community collaborator when I apply?

Yes – however, Science in Vivo project staff are available to help you identify and reach out to community organizations in your area ahead of the application date. Please submit an expression of intent for more information, and plan on attending application workshops.

administrative information

Selected organizations will not be paid until after work is complete. Applicants must be affiliated with a non-profit organization capable of administering financial awards, which will be arranged as work-for-hire. Completed applications will constitute an initial proposal. Payment of awards will be issued within 45 days upon receipt of an invoice satisfying the work described in the initial proposal (or as modified in agreement with Science Festival Alliance staff).

Science In Vivo funding must be used to directly support proposed work. Beyond this stipulation, there are no restrictions on what types of expenses are allowable, and a final expense report will not be required. Indirect or overhead costs should not apply to this work-for-hire arrangement.

The non-profit organization named in the application is responsible for carrying out any proposed work. The products of this work will be informed by participation in the Science In Vivo project, but will remain the property of the named non-profit organization. However, the Science In Vivo project may publicize case studies, photographs, video and audio recordings, and other documentation related to the proposed work.