NSF EHR Advisory Committee Holds First Meeting with New Assistant Director
NSF EHR Advisory Committee Holds First Meeting with New Assistant Director

October 2018

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Education and Human Resources (EHR) Advisory Committee held its fall meeting October 17 and 18, its first with the new assistant director for EHR, Karen Marrongelle. The role of the Advisory Committee (AC) is to provide advice, guidance, recommendations, and oversight concerning NSF’s programs for education and human resource development—including effective and efficient strategies for assessing the condition of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in the U.S., evaluating program results, achieving overall program balance, and planning long-term strategy.

The meeting included presentations and discussions on topics of relevance and importance to AERA and education researchers. Evan Heit, director of the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings (DRL), moderated a panel on Public-Private Partnerships throughout NSF.  AC members learned about obstacles to partnering with state governments and local and state education agencies—often most relevant to education researchers. When classifying a partnership, NSF is required to use a standard interagency agreement, which proves to be a challenge for states.

Matthew Wilson, senior policy advisor with the National Science Board, provided an update on the Task Force on the Skilled Technical Workforce, something he referred to as a “political unicorn.” Robin Wright, EHR Director of the Division of Undergraduate Education, shared an analysis concluding that 50 percent of all work activities have the potential to be automated. Those work activities requiring social and emotional skills are not considered able to be automated.

 A discussion of the recently released report “Bridging the Gap: Building a Sustained Approach to Mid-scale Research Infrastructure and Cyberinfrastructure at NSF” was led by Karen King, program director at DRL. King gave two examples of mid-scale infrastructure in education: The Databrary Project and Teaching Laboratories, as conceived by AERA Past-President Deborah Ball. NSF issued a Dear Colleague letter on October 15 indicating upcoming funding opportunities for mid-scale research infrastructure proposals.

Staff from the EHR Directorate provided updates on the work of the STEM Education Advisory Panel, which held its first meeting in September. In its role of encouraging U.S. scientific and technological innovations in education, the panel is examining diversity, inclusion, and persistence in STEM; criteria and methodologies for the assessment of federal STEM programs; and best practices for dissemination. The panel is also charged with identifying opportunities to update the Federal STEM Education 5-Year Strategic Plan. The updated strategic plan, covering 2018–2023, is expected to be released in December.

Committee members also engaged in discussion on an NSF response to the recommendations in a report issued earlier this year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century.” NSF staff detailed the seven themes for improvement listed in the report and described some of the efforts EHR is undertaking to engage in programmatic change to meet the needs of recipients of funding in the Division of Graduate Education.

NSF program officers from the EHR Core Research (ECR), CyberCorps Scholarships for Service, Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, and Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) provided an overview of their programs and discussed recent grants that are working to broaden participation in STEM and build institutional capacity.

Within ECR, Sarah–Kathryn McDonald highlighted a grant that is using a combination of tutoring and brain imaging to uncover the neural basis of math and reading difficulties. She also discussed Arizona State University’s CareerWISE, which attempts to address the problem of women in doctoral STEM programs leaving at higher rates than men by providing online coaching and support.

AERA is consistently well represented in EHR AC membership. Current AERA members on the Advisory Committee include Hyman Bass (University of Michigan), Sian Beilock (Barnard College), Elizabeth S. Boylan (Alfred P. Sloan Foundation), Margaret Honey (New York Hall of Science), Okhee Lee (New York University), David Monk (Pennsylvania State University), Roy Pea (Stanford University), and James Spillane (Northwestern University).

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