The Story of the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a Program of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mainstream film and television play a critical role in inspiring public interest in science. It can provide an enticing platform to share scientific information through storytelling. This requires collaboration between storytellers and scientists. However, such opportunities often lie outside the awareness or perceived interest of both filmmakers and scientists. The National Academy of Sciences therefore created The Science & Entertainment Exchange (The Exchange) to serve as a credible conduit to facilitate scientific input on film and television projects. In this paper, we combine Hollywood storytelling with academic research to describe the history, mission, and activity of The Exchange as a model for science engagement with the public. By connecting entertainment professionals to great science communicators, The Exchange aims to improve the science that appears in narrative mainstream media and generate positive portrayals of STEM professionals. Since its launch in 2008, The Exchange has completed more than 2300 consultations on films such as Avengers: Infinity War, A Wrinkle in Time, and Black Panther. Additionally, the program has produced more than 250 live events, primarily in New York and Los Angeles. Over the course of the program's 8 years, it has built a guest list of 6000 entertainment professionals and scientists and created a database of more than 2700 science communicators. The Exchange's ongoing work, as well as those of scientists, engineers, and medical professionals who take additional time to work as film and media consultants, improves STEM depictions and brings more science to the public through engaging stories. We discuss the future potential impact of popular media on science literacy and perception, and encourage scientists to embrace opportunities to use popular media to engage the public with science.