SOS Network evaluations and best practices

Resources on best practices for creating content and presenting on a spherical display.

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Content guidelines
Network-level evaluation
Institutional-level evaluation


Content for spheres

Content for spherical display systems is available for download from the SOS Dataset Catalog.

The SOS Users Collaborative Network helps to support the creation of content for spherical display systems. Many members of the network are involved in creating content.

Guidelines for creating content based on the recommendations of the network have been established and refined at network workshops.

Members of the SOS Ocean-Atmosphere Literacy Partnership project (American Museum of Natural History, Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Maryland Science Center) also created a Best Practices Report for creating content pieces.


NOAA’s suggested content guidelines

The SOS Users Collaborative Network has developed guidelines for creating effective content for spherical display systems. Effective educational content should:

  • Be structured to tell a compelling Earth system science story that is related o NOAA’s mission. The story should explain an Earth system phenomenon and provide the context and relevance of this phenomenon to the general public.

  • Have clear messages and learning objectives that will be evaluated.

  • Be based on an appropriate combination of data visualizations, animations, video and still imagery, and computer graphics.

  • Feature use of NOAA data (can be complemented by other, non-NOAA datasets). Examples of current visualizations involving NOAA data can be found at the Science On a Sphere Dataset catalog and the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory.

  • Be able to be displayed on spherical display system, including NOAA’s Science On a Sphere (SOS) System.

  • Be of a minimum resolution of 2048 X 1024 pixels for all sphere content.

  • Have planetary images plotted on an equatorial cylindrical equidistant projection for all sphere content.

  • Be made available as an MPEG-4 file, and/or as a directory of JPEG images with accompanying MP3 file for all sphere content.

  • Be evaluated for efficacy at delivering environmental messages after fully developed.


Network-level evaluation

A summative evaluation was conducted of 16 sphere sites to investigate the nature and range of impacts that the sphere has on audiences who interact with it. The final report of this evaluation (completed in September 2010), conducted by the Institute for Learning Innovation, is available below.

SOS Network

Cross-site Summative Evaluation

University of Wisconsin - Madison

EarthNow Usage and Awareness Study

Visualizing Change Project: Training and Tools to Support Informal Educators

Summative Evaluation

Institutional-level evaluation

Individual institutions that have spherical display systems have conducted evaluations and have shared them.  If you would like to add or update an evaluation report, please contact

Thanks to all who have shared their evaluation reports and thereby helped to increase our collective understanding of how this technology can best be utilized.

American Museum of Natural History

Ocean‐Atmosphere Literacy Partnership Summative Evaluation

Aquarium of the Pacific

Evaluation of Professional Development program for SOS Interpreters, 2016

Ocean Science Center Remedial Evaluation

Ocean Science Center Final Evaluation Report

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery

Remedial Evaluation of the SOS exhibition

Bishop Museum

Draft evaluation of two educational programs

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Summative Evaluation of SOS Programs, December 2013

Related to the 2013 summative evaluation, there is also a published article called "The Value of Educators 'on the floor': Comparing Three Models of Presenting Science On a Sphere." offsite link

Review of the evaluation literature, May 2010

SOS Baseline Visitor Study, Sept. 2010

Lawrence Hall of Science

Linking Evidence to Explanation in Global Science Evaluation Report

Local to Global: Using Science Visualizations to Improve Earth System Science Literacy

Maryland Science Center

Original SOS evaluation performed in Aug. 2004

Preliminary evaluation of kiosks

Summative Evaluation of the SOS Kiosk

McWane Science Center

Summary of assessment of school visits to SOS programming

Data from assessment of school visits to SOS programming

Miami Science Museum

Summative Evaluation Report for Hurricanes and Climate Change Exhibit (Note: this featured a Magic Planet® system)


Questionnaire and preliminary results

North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island

Remedial Evaluation of Oceans Revealed: Powers of the Planet

Nurture Nature Center

Evaluation Reports from Forums and Presentations

Final Evaluation report for Science On a Sphere and Flood Forums

Pacific Science Center

Summative Evaluation of scripted SOS programs on Earth System Sciences, February 2017

Science Museum of Minnesota

SMM Science on a Sphere Formative Report July 06

SMM Science on a Sphere Front-End

Footprints Tracking Report Footprints

Footprints Interview Report

SOS Interpretive Features Prototyping Report

SOS Lobby Interview Report

Science Museum of Virginia

Best Practices for Science on a Sphere® and Using Inquiry

Formative Evaluation for Sphere Corps Program

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Evaluation of facilitation vs. autorun movies, 2017

Smithsonian National Zoological Park

An Evaluation of an Educational Display

The Tech Museum of Innovation

Draft remedial evaluation for the View from Space exhibit

Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts

Evolution of SOS Live Presentations, March 2010

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Using Digital Globes to Explore the Deep Sea and Advance Public Literacy in Earth System Science