Subject Matter Expert Roles


NASA’s Universe of Learning (NASA’s UoL) shares just in time science and discoveries with the public through Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).  SMEs from across multiple institutions and NASA missions are involved in all NASA’s UoL projects in a variety of roles with varying levels of engagement, from light or occasional involvement, to deep and ongoing participation.

The types of SME engagement are based on a needs assessment survey fielded during the 2017 Winter AAS and include a range of activities as listed below. The menu of opportunities developed for SME engagement include a description of the role and examples of how the NASA’s UoL projects involve SMEs. 

For a better understanding of how you may be able to participate in NASA’s UoL, examples from current projects have been provided.  These examples represent just part of the portfolio of NASA’s Universe of Learning projects and experiences. 



Work with Science Centers / Museums on their Exhibits / Programming


NASA’s UoL provides astrophysics content and professional development for informal educators to create their own exhibits and programming for their venue. SMEs provides those informal educators astrophysics content knowledge to ensure the accuracy and up to date discoveries in context.

Example Project: Informal Learning Network Webinars

SMEs present concepts behind their research via webinars to science center/museum professionals who then develop programming appropriate to their visitors’ needs

Other NASA’s Universe of Learning Projects:

- Discover Exoplanets

- Museum Alliance Science Briefings

- Tactile Astronomy



Be Interviewed


SMEs have a wealth of knowledge to share with the public. Collecting that information through interviews and sharing that interview in video or text adds important context for the audience.

Example Project: MicroObservatory Supplementary Videos

SMEs are interviewed and filmed to create supplementary videos on the science background related to targets of the MicroObservatory robotic telescope network.

Other NASA’s Universe of Learning Projects:

- Universe Unplugged

- AstroViz

- Project PANOPTES



Provide Astrophysics content or content review


Subject Matter Experts have the astrophysics knowledge necessary to make the products created by NASA’s Universe of Learning as accurate and timely as possible. NASA’s UoL products ensures the accuracy and quality that can only be achieved by a SME.

Example Project: Universe Unplugged Videos

Subject Matter Experts provide the science content and review scripts for accuracy and misconceptions that are used to reach a broad and diverse audience.

Other NASA’s Universe of Learning Projects:

- ViewSpace

- MicroObservatory

- National Science Olympiad



Give a Presentation


NASA’s Universe of Learning engages youth, families, and lifelong learners in the science, the story, and the adventure of NASA’s scientific explorations of the universe. Additionally, NASA’s Universe of Learning also provides professional development and science updates to a variety of educational professionals. Presentations can take the form of in person interactions and virtual interactions through webinars and telecons.

Example Project: Museum Alliance Science Briefings

SMEs provide science content in their area of expertise virtually via a webinar with an audience of informal educators, including museum professionals and NASA Solar System Ambassadors.

Other NASA’s Universe of Learning Projects:

- Pre-Service Partnerships

- Discover Exoplanets

- Spectroscopy Lab



Facilitate Demonstration or Activity


NASA’s Universe of Learning coordinates and/or participates in a variety of events for audience such as after school clubs, libraries, museums, and science centers just to name a few. Subject Matter Experts participate in these events either in person or virtually, sharing science content the help better understand the demonstrations or activities. NASA’s Universe of Learning embeds Subject Matter Experts in these ways because research has shown that having SMEs participate in events increases the learning and interest of the audience.

Example Project: Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA

SMEs participate remotely and in person in events at libraries and community-based organizations to:

● Facilitate activities at GSAWN events

● Share science content and stories

● Interact with girls and their families

Other NASA’s Universe of Learning Projects:

- Pre-Service Partnerships

- DIY Planet Search

- Informal Learning Network