Professor Phil Myers has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that will bring together technical and education leaders, who are critical in expanding student access to authentic science experiences. A two-day workshop on U-M’s Ann Arbor central campus is being planned for July 25 – 26, 2013. 

“We think that engaging students in research is a critical part of science education, and one that we often don't do very well,” said Myers. “This is an important step in finding ways to get authentic data streams into classes and presented in a way that lets students ask and answer real, current questions."

Representatives from at least 16 national organizations, including the U-M Animal Diversity Web, will participate to discuss strategies for enhancing data discovery and usability, to propose standards for data sharing, and to make recommendations for incorporating authentic data in inquiry-based teaching in biology.

The grant is from NSF’s Division of Biological Infrastructure. Myers is the principal investigator, curator of the U-M Museum of Zoology, and creator of the ADW. Tanya Dewey, research program officer for ADW, co-authored the grant with Myers and is the workshop coordinator. This is a Research Coordination Networks for Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) project. The one year grant began December 31, 2012.

"We look forward to this very valuable and timely conversation about how best to bring authentic, data-driven activities into undergraduate biology classrooms,” said Dewey. “This meeting brings together many of the groups that are most experienced and innovative in this field."

Following the meeting, a set of recommendations will be published online for community feedback then compiled as a published resource for data management and education communities. Other outcomes include a coordinated network to continue exploring solutions for improved accessibility of real data in education, data sharing across organizations, further publications reflecting resolutions reached by participants, and research on automated solutions for sharing data.

“This is an ideal time to bring undergraduate biology education organizations together,” states the project proposal. “The demand for innovative and engaging data inquiry opportunities in undergraduate biology is growing as the majority of faculty have come to recognize its value in their teaching. We anticipate that specific collaboration projects and a broader sense of community among these projects will result from this meeting.”

The workshop will not be open to the public but a mixer will be scheduled the evening of Thursday, July 25 so that EEB faculty and students can meet with the participants. Further information will be forthcoming.