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USC, NSF To Shoot For Science Literacy

February 23, 2010

The USC School of Cinematic Arts and the National Science Foundation will combine the talents of researchers and entertainment scholars to inspire mass media audiences about science and engineering concepts, the two institutions announced Feb. 19.

School of Cinematic Arts dean Elizabeth M. Daley and National Science Board vice chair Patricia Galloway announced the partnership in San Diego at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, whose theme this year is “Bridging Science and Society.”

They were joined by Academy-Award winning director and producer Ron Howard, Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, and Kalpen Modi, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Named the “Creative Science Studio,” or CS2, the partnership is the first to link a federal science agency with an academic leader in the field of entertainment and interactive median “” though not the first example of a collaboration that marries USC’s rare combination of strengths in basic research, digital technology and entertainment.

“USC is the natural place to establish this program, given our rich history in science education and strong academic tradition in film, television and interactive media,” said USC Executive Vice President and Provost C. L. Max Nikias.

Said Daley: “This alliance is a vital and essential one. I’m excited for a potential symbiosis between these two institutions, which will play a major role in the ongoing evolution of scientific communication for both researchers and storytellers.”

Based at the School of Cinematic Arts on USC’s downtown Los Angeles campus, the partnership aims to:

“¢ provide NSF-funded researchers on campuses throughout the country with novel opportunities to create entertaining and engaging outreach products through collaborations with cinematic arts faculty and students

“¢ provide cinematic arts faculty and students, and other entertainment producers, with science and engineering collaborations and access to state-of-the-art resources “”including instruments, data visualization methodologies and other cutting-edge technologies “” to enhance depictions of science in mass entertainment works

“¢ expose next-generation entertainment producers to science and engineering themes during their education to increase familiarity and comfort level with those topics

“¢ provide test-bed opportunities between NSF-funded researchers and cinematic arts scholars to produce highly engaging and creative products to educate mass audiences on leading topics in science and engineering.

“This novel and creative partnership will enlist the power of the entertainment media to inspire audiences to learn more about science and engineering, to develop a network of scientific experts, facilities and instruments available to the arts, and bring new technologies in sight, sound and video to the marketplace,” said Thomas Kalil, deputy director for policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in a statement.

“This partnership will support initiatives already announced by President Obama as part of his “Educate to Innovate” campaign to motivate and inspire students to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Kalil stated.

The partnership follows a USC tradition of projects that marry science and storytelling to take advantage of the university’s unique location and research base. Examples include:

“¢ The Institute for Creative Technologies, established by the U.S. Army at USC to take advantage of the university’s strengths in digital technology, interactive media and the entertainment industry

“¢ The Integrated Media Systems Center, the only NSF center of excellence in multimedia and the Internet

“¢ Hollywood, Health & Society, a resource for entertainment professionals seeking credible information on public health topics, jointly sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute and the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center

“¢ Wellness Partners, an initiative of the School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media Division funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to develop mobile games that promote healthier lifestyles.

The Creative Science Studio resulted from extensive discussions between the National Science Foundation and USC’s Washington, D.C.-based Research Advancement Office, overseen by Randolph Hall, vice provost for research advancement.

Steven Moldin, executive director of the D.C. office, said: “Working with federal agencies to establish exciting strategic alliances like this, which will create a national showcase for leading USC academic programs, is one of the goals of our office.”

The Creative Science Studio is scheduled to begin operation this fall.

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