Common measure: Visitor attendance

Our programming relies on engagement from members of the public in order to achieve our learning objectives. Visitors come to NOAA-supported facilities and protected areas to learn and view different types of nature each year. We support museums, aquariums, and other informal education institutions with educational exhibits to help extend NOAA’s reach into communities across the country. This common measure captures the number of people who visit the NOAA-supported exhibits each year.

Common measure

Output: Number of people that visit museums, aquariums, and other informal education institutions hosting NOAA-supported exhibits.


Visitors: Members of the public that attend an informal education institution that is owned or managed by either NOAA or a partner organization and that hosts exhibits that are designed, funded, installed, or curated by NOAA staff.

  • The number of visitors to an informal education institution is the annual visitor attendance at each institution that hosted a current exhibit in the federal fiscal year.
  • We consider the visit to the institution rather than visit to the exhibit. We recognize that a visitor may visit the institution but may not have visited the NOAA-related exhibit.
  • We recognize that a visitor may come to an institution multiple times a year, in this case, an individual who enters the institution on more than one occasion would be counted for each visit.
  • We rely on the institutions to report their annual attendance whichever way they count visitors. The reported total for an institution could be the cumulative number of tickets sold or a physical count of the number of persons who enter the institution.

Informal education institution: Organizations that host an indoor or outdoor exhibits for the public to view.

  • Examples: Museums, aquariums, zoos, visitor centers.

Exhibits: An organized arrangement of text, graphics, and/or objects that communicate a message or theme that must involve some NOAA science, NOAA data, or NOAA asset.

  • Examples of outdoor exhibits: Often called waysides, they include interpretive signs, kiosks, or other presentation methods developed for use in the outdoors.

Data collection and reporting

Administrative records: Each Education Council administrative unit and sub-unit is responsible for documenting the annual attendance for each informal education institution for the lifetime of the exhibit.

Each Education Council member will report the annual attendance of institutions for which they are the primary partner. Other Council members will review the reported attendance. In this way, we can avoid double counting the same institution reported by two or more Education Council member.

Unified Data Call: An annual collection of output measures, disaggregations, and outyear estimates from each Education Council member seat. Data collected in the Unified Data Call is used for both internal NOAA reporting purposes, which includes the Annual Operating Plan (AOP), and for external reporting purposes, including NOAA Education Annual Accomplishments Report and Congressional briefings.


  • FY2010: This output measure was first reported.
  • FY2011: The following measure was reported as: Number of people who visit informal learning institutions with a NOAA-funded exhibit or program that integrates NOAA sciences, data, and other information.
  • FY2012-2013: The following measure was approved by the Education Council on August 31, 2012 and reported as: Number of visitors to informal education institutions hosting exhibits or docent training programs that enhance understanding and use of ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, weather, and climate information to promote stewardship and to increase informed decision making.
  • FY2014: The measure was modified on March 24, 2014 to align with annual accomplishments for FY13. Number of people that visit museums, aquariums, and other informal education institutions hosting NOAA-supported exhibits or programs that enhance stewardship and promote informed decision-making.
  • FY2017: The definitions were revised for clarity and published on the NOAA Education website.
  • FY2023: The definitions were revised to remove references to "programs" or "docent training." This is not a common occurrence and more often than not causes confusion. Programs assume any type of programming offers by the institution supported by NOAA can be counted.