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A paper by the educator William H. Cosby Jr., better known as the entertainer Bill Cosby, on the importance of early exposure to effective science teaching is one of thousands of documents available on a new online service offered by the National Academy of Sciences.

N.A.S. Online made its debut this month on America Online, a rapidly growing computer network based in Vienna, Va. It features science, science-education, technology, and health news from the academy and its affiliates--the National Academy of Engineering, the National Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council.

"N.A.S. Online will provide us with a special opportunity to enhance the public's knowledge about how scientific research and science policies affect their daily lives," said Bruce M. Alberts, the academy's president and a leader in an elementary-science-education reform effort in San Francisco.

Academy officials said drafts of voluntary standards for science-education content, teaching, and assessment, which were released late last year, will soon join Mr. Cosby's 10-year-old paper. The comedian holds a doctorate in education and served on a commission that studied precollegiate education for the National Science Foundation.

Like many similar services, N.A.S. Online will offer electronic bulletin boards and live "chat sessions." But it will also house an "interactive bookstore" with nearly 900 titles published by the National Academy Press.

A.O.L. subscribers can access N.A.S. Online through the "education" or "clubs & interests" departments or by using the keyword "nas."

America Online software, which is required to use the service, is available at software retailers and bookstores, or by calling (800) 827-6364.

The U.S. Education Department is making available the full texts of federal education legislation, as well as education reports and statistics through its new Internet service, "inet."

The department's "Online Library" features electronic versions of such documents as "A Teacher's Guide to the U.S. Department of Education" and "Prisoners of Time," a report of the National Commission on Time and Learning.

More information is available from the inet Project Manager, U.S. Education Department, Office of Educational Research and Improvement/EIRD, 555 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Room 214, Washington, D.C. 20208-5725.

Questions about the inet may sent by e-mail to

--Peter West

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