AERA Offers Comments to Inform 2022–26 NSF Strategic Plan
AERA Offers Comments to Inform 2022–26 NSF Strategic Plan

February 2021

On February 10, AERA provided comments to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to inform the development of the agency’s 2022–26 strategic plan. NSF solicited comments on the Core Values and Strategic Goals and Objectives in the current strategic plan. In addition, NSF sought responses on three questions focusing on emerging science policy issues, U.S. leadership in STEM research, and the importance of fundamental research to the U.S.

In the comments, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine emphasized the importance of NSF explicitly noting the contributions that education researchers have made to inform STEM education programs and expand U.S. STEM talent. The National Science Board (NSB) has emphasized building STEM talent in its Vision 2030 report, while the Education and Human Resources (EHR) Advisory Committee STEM Education for the Future visioning report provides guidance to build STEM education and the STEM workforce. However, the role of education research can have to help NSF achieve these ambitions is not explicit in either document.

“Understanding and accounting for innovation and discovery in science depend upon scientific knowledge that is essentially the work of education research,” wrote Levine. “Research in this field has produced findings that promote the overall educational success of students, address educational inequities that contribute to the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM, and produce innovative assessments and instructional methods to engage students in STEM, among many other areas.”

Levine also noted the long-term omission of education research as a field of science and the attendant absence of information about this field and its workforce. She emphasized the problems of any group being labelled “other” and then not being counted. Levine urged that NSF classify education research as a scientific field, including in the NSF surveys conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics.

In addition to the comments on the field of education research, Levine also provided several recommendations for NSF to consider:

  • Explicitly mentioning NSF commitment to broadening participation as part of its vision
  • Charging the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics to ensure that its data and survey collections include indicators of the participations of LGBTQ+ populations, persons with diverse (dis)abilities, and other demographic attributes to inform the larger contributions of such groups within science
  • Incorporating knowledge use as part of supporting the NSF mission
  • Expanding work to fund data–sharing infrastructure and measuring productivity and contributions in STEM

Along with public feedback to inform the plan, the NSB discussed the forthcoming strategic plan during its meeting on February 24, and the EHR Advisory Committee discussed the plan during its October 2020 meeting.