The Science Data Literacy (SDL) project is funded as part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) effort to ensure there are educated and trained people ready to work with the latest computer and technical infrastructure to maximize scientific progress. In their March 2007 report, NSF’s Cyberinfrastructure Council recognized the country’s fast-changing scientific research and education environment was becoming increasingly data intensive, due to the advancement and proliferation of tools and networks creating and moving “born-digital?information that represent astronomical sky surveys or species’ DNA coding, for example.
The NSF Cyberinfrastructure report continues:
The dynamic integration of data generated through observation and simulation is enabling the development of new scientific methods that adapt intelligently to evolving conditions to reveal new understanding. The enormous growth in the availability and utility of scientific data is increasing scholarly research productivity, accelerating the transformation of research outcomes into products and services, and enhancing the effectiveness of learning across the spectrum of human endeavor.
In addition, SDL is funded as part of the NSF’s investment to encourage the development and dissemination of effective techniques in undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). According to a 2003 National Research Council (NRC) publication, STEM education advancements are as important to society as other research endeavors. The NRC book describes the following areas of work needed to improve undergraduate STEM courses:
- applying principles of human learning from research in cognitive science to the assessment of learning outcomes,
- training teachers for engaging and advising large numbers of students with diverse interests and varying reasons for enrolling,
- providing faculty and students with engaging laboratory and field experiences, and
- supervising students who undertake original research.
Over a two-year period SDL project researchers will plan and twice conduct a new undergraduate course that combines both these NSF targetted areas. This course will be offered as part of the School of Information Studies’ information management & technology (IM&T) major, but students from multiple science disciplines will be recruited to take the course and work alongside IM&T students in teams. With guidance from a multidisciplinary advisory board of Syracuse University professors, the SDL project is:
- assessing the needs for scientific data literacy education through environmental scanning and surveying science and technology faculty members.
- creating learning strategies, techniques, and materials on scientific data and their lifecycle.
- evaluating the effectiveness of learning materials and pedagogy through outcome-based evidence.
- generalizing and communicating the lessons learned for larger scale implementation of the course curriculum throughout undergraduate institutions.