Living Lab Program

The Living Lab program at UM brings researchers from the University of Michigan into public spaces where interested community members can jump right in as participants in real studies.  Many of the studies explore questions about the development of behavior and cognition in children.  Thus, children serve as enthusiastic research participants while parents watch and ask questions.  Further, many studies ask parents to join in as participants in some of the procedures, or by completing surveys about their children.  A key aspect of the Living Lab model is the communication between researchers and the public.  The UM Living Lab gives adults and children the chance to see social science in action and to pose questions to the researchers.  Thus, the UM Living Lab serves as a way for people to learn more about the science of child development while taking part in that science!  The Living Lab program currently has dedicated lab sites at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum and the UM Museum of Natural History.  Researchers can be found in both spots every weekend, and during school vacations.  The Living Lab has also collaborated with the Ann Arbor District Library; families have participated in UM studies at the main branch of the library.  Since the fall of 2012, over 5000 families have participated in UM research through the UM Living Lab program.

One of the key goals of the UM Living Lab program is to provide rich research experiences for UM undergraduate and graduate students.  UM undergraduates working in Living Lab sites are tasked with recruiting participants, explaining research goals and procedures, running studies with children and parents, debriefing participants, and providing broader education to museum and library visitors about the methods of social science.  Putting students in the dual role of researchers and educators pushes them to attain a deeper understanding of the life cycle of a study, as research must be explained to diverse audiences in an accurate but accessible manner.  Graduate students running their studies in the Living Lab also benefit from learning how to communicate complex ideas to general audiences in a jargon-free manner.  In this remarkable arrangement, researchers gain access to a large pool of participants, museums gain dynamic research-focused ‘exhibits,’ researchers learn invaluable communication skills, and members of the community gain access to exciting new information about child development and the methods of social science.

Please visit the UM Living Lab Program website.


Project Team

Craig Smith, College of Literature, Science and the Arts

Susan Gelman, College of Literature, Science and the Arts

Henry Wellman, College of Literature, Science and the Arts