November 13, 2012

From GRC Grantweek: NSF Will Launch E2 in Late-FY 13

During a November 8, 2012 public meeting, the National Science Foundation (NSF) Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR) discussed the pending release of a solicitation for Expeditions in Education (E2) pilot projects. E2 was proposed in NSF’s FY 13 budget request as part of the $807 million OneNSF initiative to coordinate high-priority programs seamlessly across all NSF disciplines and administrative units. (See the February 13, 2012 edition of GrantWeek for previous coverage.)

E2 is an effort to “consolidate, leverage, and focus” NSF’s educational and research missions to achieve national goals in STEM research and discovery, teaching and learning, and workforce development. There are three initial priorities: Transforming Undergraduate STEM Learning through Science and Engineering; Learning and Understanding Sustainability and Cyberlearning; and Data and Observations of STEM Education.

The February budget request described NSF’s plans for EHR, as the coordinating unit, and participating research offices, divisions, and directorates to issue a dear colleague letter that will solicit proposals and provide the following information:
  • A list of programs across NSF that are part of the E2 portfolio;
  • E2-specific expectations and language for each participating program;
  • Information on what will constitute an E2 activity;
  • Proposal evaluation and funding details (EHR and the participating directorates, divisions, and offices will split financial, staffing, and award decision responsibilities during FY 13); and
  • A description of E2 guiding principles, metrics, data collection and reporting standards, and project evaluation requirements.
E2is part of a broader effort to staunch the flow of students out of STEM disciplines. EHR representatives at the November 8 meeting cited data showing that over 40 percent of U.S. undergraduate students who begin in a STEM major leave the program by the second semester of their first year. E2 will probe the replication potential of successful interventions for pervasive problems like these (EHR has highlighted Tuft University’s thriving engineering department as an example of a program that embeds real-world experience into undergraduate education, resulting not just in student retention but also in attracting students from other disciplines.) A second expected outcome of E2 is widespread execution of strategies for aligning experts on the science of learning with researchers from disciplines all along the STEM spectrum.

The pilot projects selected for FY 13 funding will become NSF’s “baseline” E2 portfolio. By FY 17, the agency expects the initiative to have transformed NSF’s entire education portfolio “into a coordinated and strategic set of investments spanning basic research and theory about STEM learning; design, implementation, and assessment of models for STEM learning and workforce development; evidence-based models for building institutional and human capacity; and innovative approaches to adaptation and scale-up.” This STEM education revolution will run concurrently with NSF’s “re-envisioning of EHR” to “to provide a full set of core investments in STEM education” research and development.

Check back with the Research Blog for updates!

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