COS 104-10 - Cultivating participation of underrepresented institutions and students in NEON science: The college speaking tour report

Thursday, August 11, 2011: 4:40 PM
Ballroom B, Austin Convention Center
Don Bowie, Science & Engineering Alliance, Inc., Washington, DC, Robert Shepard, Science and Engineering Alliance, Washington, DC and Saba Aghajanian, Demographic and Institutional Research, Fayetteville, NC
Background/Question/Methods: Between November 2009 and November 2010 the Science and Engineering Alliance Inc., (SEA), in collaboration with the National Ecological Observatory Network, Inc. (NEON) and Ecological Society of America (ESA), with funding from National Science Foundation (NSF), sponsored a series of College Speaking Tours (CSTs) at 16 Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The major objective of the CST was to enhance understanding of NEON science focus areas and to measure NEON-related research capabilities among the participating institutions. NEON’s vision is for a broad spectrum of society to be engaged with NEON science with the ability to use data, data products, information and forecasts to address the environmental Grand Challenges of our time.  The CSTs were aimed to present the concept and operation of the NEON project that includes NEON resources and opportunities for collaboration with the research and education community at a sample of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), i.e., Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). Along with this speaking tour, an online survey research tool was launched to collect data on the existing NEON related research that is being conducted at these institutions. The purpose of the survey was to evaluate and assess existing research readiness and skilled professional capabilities in six NEON science areas, namely: biodiversity, biogeochemistry, climate changes, ecohydrology, infectious diseases and land use.  

Results/Conclusions: The survey, the SEA NEON Science Capabilities Checklist, was completed by faculty, graduate and post-doctoral students prior to the CST. Data was collected from 55 of the 317 participates from the MSIs.  Outcomes from information collected during these CSTs allows SEA, ESA, and NEON to identify potential partners for NEON-related research and educational projects; and serves as a mechanism that enables SEA to inform the HBCUs and MSIs of relevant research, education and funding opportunities affiliated with the NEON project.  Results facilitate collaboration between NEON researchers, HBCUs and MSIs to ensure their broader participation in NEON.  Results from the CSTs survey indicate that faculty and students have current research (in descending order) in the following NEON grand challenge areas: biodiversity, land-use, biogeochemistry, ecohydrology, bioclimate, and disease. The institutions also suggest that a funding mechanism that targets the underrepresented community is essential to broadening participation in the NEON project.

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