Policy Brief

STEM Issues Among Those on New NSF Chief’s Platter

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Education watchers say the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering dean Subra Suresh to lead the National Science Foundation may lead to greater action on an interagency strategy for science, technology, engineering, and math—or STEM—education research, which has been in the works for a while now.

The federal agency, with an annual budget of about $7 billion, focuses in part on promoting K-12 science education and research. Mr. Suresh, 54, who was approved Sept. 29 for a six-year term, replaces Arden Bement, who stepped down June 1.

Cora B. Marrett, until now the acting NSF director, told Institute of Education Sciences officials and advisory board members that NSF, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Institutes of Health, and the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology have had some difficulty coordinating inter-agency strategies.

“We’re committed to integration of education and STEM,” she said, but “how do we ever get the heads of these organizations together? How do you figure out who within them is responsible [for STEM education]? We don’t have a single unit responsible for aggregating, bringing together the different experiences of the agencies.”

The NSF has already made a start. Though still without an assistant director, the agency’s education directorate has just put out a new request for proposals on collaborative interdisciplinary research in education issues.

“We’re looking at how to bring the disciplinary-based work to the more general work on the science of learning,” Ms. Marrett said.

Meanwhile, the NSF at the end of August launched a national search to recruit a new assistant director for the Education and Human Resources Directorate, which oversees four NSF divisions and administers an $872 million budget. In seeking recommendations for the post, the agency cited as qualifications for the post “a grasp of the issues facing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research and education.”

Vol. 30, Issue 08, Page 15

Published in Print: October 20, 2010, as STEM Likely to Bid For NSF Chief's Eye
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