QUBES: Building a community to promote undergraduate quantitative biology education
Ecology has developed into a field with a strong emphasis on quantitative research. As a result, the majority of ecology-related careers require proficiency in quantitative skills, such as statistical analysis, mathematical modelling, and programming. Despite the demand for young ecologists with a strong math background, undergraduate ecology curricula often remain largely descriptive and conceptual. While a suite of educational resources exists on the web, the support and incentives required for faculty to adopt these resources are lacking. The NSF-funded Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) project seeks to facilitate the adoption of quantitative biology into the classroom through five initiatives. First, QUBES will unite the interests of various professional societies under a common goal of promoting quantitative biology. Second, QUBES will promote faculty networks to foster professional development by bringing faculty together with experts in quantitative reasoning. Third, QUBES will develop a system to track and measure faculty teaching contributions. Fourth, QUBES will monitor the outcome of this system and track its success in moving quantitative biology into the classroom. Lastly, to implement the above initiatives, QUBES has partnered with HubZero, an open source software platform, to create a website that supports collaboration and quantitative biology education activities.
The QUBES Hub website (qubeshub.org) launched in February 2015. QUBES Hub currently features the QUBES consortium of 15 professional organizations, including the Ecological Society of America. A resource submission and review system has been created inside the Hub to promote the sharing of resources among these societies and between faculty. Users can submit a variety of resources - including software, data, teaching material, and reference material - and post comments describing how they adapted the resource for a particular classroom setting. To date, QUBES Hub hosts over 100 resources. QUBES Hub has also been designed and used to coordinate faculty workshops and networks. The website served as the home for the 2015 Quantitative Biology Education Summit, a meeting that brought together leading experts to identify critical next steps in bringing quantitative biology into the undergraduate classroom. Additionally, two faculty networks are currently being piloted. QUBES Hub has already united over 100 scientists and mathematicians with an interest in promoting quantitative biology. By providing easy access to professional development and teaching resources, along with promoting teaching scholarship, QUBES can help faculty overcome the barriers to teaching quantitative biology and assist in the development of well-trained ecologists for the next generation.