The University of Nebraska State Museum, Soundprint Media Center, Inc. (SMCI), the NIH/NCRR-funded Nebraska Center for Virology, and the American Institute for Biological Sciences working with Carl Zimmer, a nationally recognized science writer, propose an integrated educational media initiative to teach the public about cutting-edge virology research. The project, called World of Viruses, will develop documentaries for public and satellite radio stations that are complemented with a sophisticated libraries, educators, and middle and high school students. Our goal is to educate the public about virology by: 1) Conveying the importance of virology research and clinical trials to diverse people's health, communities, and environments;2) Creating partnerships between radio stations, virology researchers, public libraries, and educators to give the public access to community resources to learn more about virology, and 3) Interesting the public - especially middle and high school aged youth - in virology careers. We are proposing an integrated package of 15 radio documentaries coupled with 15 eight-minute features and a strong outreach component package designed for public libraries, educators, and middle and high school students. Radio shows will feature prominent virology researchers discussing their real-life work and experiences. The radio programs will be strategically complemented by an innovative informal learning package - one that blends standards- and inquiry-based learning with the latest information technologies. The foundation of this community-based outreach module is a digital package of high resolution images, inquiry-based activities, podcasts, and files accessible via the web. This includes readily downloadable, customizable materials for libraries to use as a special exhibit during the time stations broadcast the programs, for high school and middle school students to directly download materials for integration into their projects and papers, and for educators to incorporate activities about viruses into their programs. This web package also is designed to help public libraries work with 6-12 educators, and the project will provide assistance for stations and libraries to coordinate their efforts. The Public Library Association with over 11,000 members is a partner in this program, as are popular websites already used by middle and high school educators, including the University of California's Understanding Evolution website, the American Institute of Biological Sciences'Action, and All of the Virology on the WWW.

Public Health Relevance

Issues about viruses and viral diseases are presented to the public in isolation, without much explanation of their cause, epidemiology, and associated human health risks. There is little understanding among the public of how viruses replicate, why some viruses cause diseases, how vaccines are developed, the role of viruses in evolution, and the importance of clinical trials and their relevance for health and community well-being. World of Viruses is one of very few projects attempting to integrate the resources and activities of public radio, libraries, the Internet, and youth in order to achieve major impacts on public health education about research on virology.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Research Resources (NCRR)
Education Projects (R25)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRR1-SEPA-9 (01))
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Beck, Lawrence A
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University of Nebraska Lincoln
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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Diamond, Judy; McQuillan, Julia; Spiegel, Amy N et al. (2016) Viruses, Vaccines and the Public. Mus Soc Issues 11:9-16
Diamond, Judy; Jee, Benjamin; Matuk, Camilla et al. (2015) Museum Monsters and Victorious Viruses: Improving Public Understanding of Emerging Biomedical Research. Curator (N Y) 58:299-311
Jee, Benjamin D; Uttal, David H; Spiegel, Amy et al. (2015) Expert-novice differences in mental models of viruses, vaccines, and the causes of infectious disease. Public Underst Sci 24:241-56
Spiegel, Amy N; McQuillan, Julia; Halpin, Peter et al. (2013) Engaging Teenagers with Science Through Comics. Res Sci Educ 43: