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disease so that new methods of diagnosis, prevention and treatment can be developed and put into use by health care providers.
To successfully complete this mission, NIH is dependent on a cadre of highly trained biomedical and behavioral researchers. Since its inception, NIH has supported the training of these researchers. In 1976 this support was codified into the National Research Service Awards (NRSA) program which provides both fellowships and traineeships to talented undergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral students and young researchers so that they can pursue training is biomedical/behavioral research. NRSA program is highly successful and U.S. biomedical researchers continue to be world leaders in their fields.
Recent studies, however, indicate that students who are now in elementary, junior high and high school are being turned off to science. These students, particularly minorities and women, are lost from the pool of college and graduate students from which NIH researchers will be developed in the 21st century. something is not done now to attract these students to the sciences, it is predicted that the number of trained researchers will be inadequate to meet national needs by the year 2000. Without this pool of researchers, NIH will be unable to perform the kind of biomedical research needed to insure the continued health of our Nation.
A more subtle effect that the quality of science education has on NIH is in the area of public science literacy. U.S. public, social, and economic health depends increasingly on the population's understanding and use of science and technology. Our health care system has become dependent on scientifically literate patients who can make informed decisions about their health needs.
In addition, many research enterprises have come under attack from interest groups who assert that biomedical research is unnecessary and actually undermines the moral fabric of this country. Some seem generally well-meaning but poorly informed. Others, such as animal-rights and environmental extremists seem
intent upon deliberate deception. In either case, these groups
find a vulnerable audience for their message in a public that is not scientifically informed. A more active campaign to educate the general public is needed to protect it from this kind of manipulation.
Like all Federal agencies, NIH is dependent on the will of the people for its continued survival. Without a scientifically literate public equipped with the tools necessary to make the difficult ethical decisions that are demanded by our society, the mission of NIH could be placed in jeopardy.
Question. What is the goal of the NIH Science Education
Answer. The goal of the NIH science education program is two-pronged: 1) to encourage the natural enthusiasm young people have for science and thus maintain the flow of students into biomedical/life sciences education and career paths--with a
special focus on recruiting women, minorities and the disabled; and 2) to promote public support for and understanding of biomedical science and technology.
Question. Many Federal agencies are focusing attention and resources on improving science education. What unique Is NIH actively
contributions can NIH make to this effort?
Answer. Adolescents and younger children have a natural interest in their bodies and the world around them. As a result, the life sciences offer an especially suitable vehicle for capturing and encouraging their enthusiasm for science. While many Federal agencies with education and science missions are involved in science education and training, none focus on biomedical and life sciences literacy or education. NIH is uniquely positioned to use its many resources, both in terms of scientific personnel and laboratory facilities, to increase understanding and appreciation for biomedical and behavioral science among school children, college students, and adults.
Unlike many of the other science mission agencies, NIH has on staff a large number of the most highly trained biomedical scientists in the world. These scientists form a valuable resource that can be used to support the efforts currently being made to improve science education in this country. Many of these scientists are already donating their free time to participate in "Adopt-a-school" programs, and many more have expressed a willingness to participate in curriculum development projects as well as intramural student and teacher education programs.
NIH is actively involved in the FCCSET Committee on Education and Human Resources (CEHR), and represents the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the Department of Education Steering Committee on Science and Mathematics Education. In the Spring of 1990, the CEHR formed a working group to develop an inventory and perform an extensive review of all Federal science education programs. The Associate Director for Science Policy and Legislation has represented DHHS on this working group and has coordinated the presentation of all Department programs.
NIH has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Education to provide partial funding for one of their research centers on science education and is actively pursuing similar collaborative projects with the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and other Federal agencies. In 1990, NIH collaborated with NASA to develop a curriculum supplement, "Human Physiology in Space: A Program for America."
In addition, the Deputy Director of NIH co-chairs the PHS Board on Life Sciences Education and Science Literacy with the Administrator of ADAMHA. The Board, composed of representatives from each of the PHS agencies, was established as a Working Group in 1989 to coordinate PHS efforts in science education and science literacy. In late 1989, they published a Report on Science Education efforts at PHS. This was followed by an Action Plan which made specific recommendations, goals, and
strategies. In the Spring of 1991, the Board will hold a National Conference on Life Sciences Education and Literacy. This conference will bring together individuals from education, industry, professional associations, the media, and other Federal agencies to assist in the development of both short- and long-range plans to guide the development of future PHS science education programs.
Question. Has the NIH formulated a long-range plan for science education? What is the projected budget? What new initiatives do you plan for FY 1992?
How much do you estimate will be spent in FY '92? How much is included in the budget for FY '91?
Answer. The National Institutes of Health has drafted a framework for a five-year plan for its participation in science education and is awaiting the outcome of the Public Health Service National Conference on Science Education to finalize this plan. The National Conference, "Prologue to Action: Life Sciences Education and Science Literacy", will be held June 1618, 1991 and will bring together experts from across the education community, federal government and private industry to help develop strategies and a long range plan for PHS involvement in science education.
The objectives of this plan are to expand efforts to enhance teacher knowledge of the life sciences and encourage partnerships between the scientific and educational communities to improve science education at pre-school through undergraduate levels. While new to this area, NIH recognizes the impact of such an effort on student knowledge, motivation, career interest, and health promotion. Universities and other organizations will receive grants for model programs to improve science education in the life sciences by promoting linkages among NIH-funded scientists and local school and community programs. Activities will include summer institutes for teachers; development of curriculum supplements, audio-visual materials, classroom activity, laboratory guides, and other educational materials; laboratory experience for students and teachers; and mentoring. A major emphasis will continue to be on programs to improve science education for minorities and
NIH also is exploring ways to work collaboratively with other federal agencies (e.g., co-funding projects of mutual interest), national biology and science teachers organizations, professional societies, and other national groups to enhance teacher knowledge and skills and develop useful classroom materials. Programs and materials will be developed to inform life scientists about how they can contribute to improved precollege science education. These will be developed for intramural and extramural scientists.
Budget: The NIH Biomedical/Life Sciences Education Program, which will be administered by the Office of Science Policy and Legislation is officially reflected in the NIH budget beginning
in fiscal 1992 at a level of $2.0 million. Estimated figures for the Science Education Program Five-Year Budget Plan are listed in the table below.
National Institutes of Health Life Sciences Education Program Five-Year Budget Plan*
Funds Ext. (Millions)
* Plan for activities under the Office of Science Policy and
Over the years, the traditional NIH research apprenticeship, fellowship and traineeship programs have been well funded. This support, however, has not extended to the development and implementation of new and innovative programs in science education at the pre-school through undergraduate levels. The NIH science education program was initiated to address this need. Many of the activities developed as a part of the program correspond closely to the actions recommended in the Final Report of the Task Force on Women, Minorities and the Handicapped in Science and Technology, "Changing America: New Face of Science and Engineering," and the issue of the participation of under- represented groups is given special emphasis throughout these programs.
In FY 1991 NIH is piloting a number of new programs that will be expanded in FY 1992 if they prove successful. These include:
ADAMHA/NIH Science. Education Partnership Awards (SEPA).
The Science Alliance. This program will establish alliances between PHS scientists and elementary school educators to increase enthusiasm for science among teachers and students, increase teachers' familiarity with science curricula and materials, integrate science with other subjects, identify talented young people, challenge PHS staff, and demonstrate PHS's commitment to science education. Paired with an elementary school, a team of scientists would participate in
science classes, provide role models for students, and generate enthusiasm for science in the classroom. The pilot program is estimated to cost $5,000.
The following programs are currently being developed for implementation in future years:
Biomedical Research Advancement: Saturday Scholars (BRASS): This program will provide an opportunity each year for 48 junior and senior high students in the DC metropolitan area to participate in an 8 week Saturday morning science program held on the NIH campus and taught by NIH scientists. The program will consist of 2 to 3 hour sessions which will include didactic seminars, hands on laboratory experiences, field trips, and lectures on topics in the biomedical/life sciences.
AREA Grant Support for Science Teachers. This proposed program is being designed to enhance the expertise of high school teachers by providing funds for them to participate in research being done at Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) grant institutions, i.e., institutions that historically have not received major extramural support. Funds would cover the average salary for a junior high or high school science teacher for 120 days (about $4,000), plus administration costs.
NIH/IHS Extern Assignment: This program will provide
Older Americans Program: This program would use the talents
In FY 1991, NIH has allocated $2.0 million from the Director's Discretionary Fund for support of the Science Education Partnership Awards (SEPA). In addition, the Office of Science Policy and Legislation has earmarked approximately $200,000 for science education activities. These activities include NIH participation in the FCCSET Committee for Education and Human Resources (CEHR), the PHS Life Sciences Education and Science Literacy Board activities--including the National Conference, and support for a number of smaller programs like the Science Alliance.
Fiscal 1992 marks the first year that NIH will have a specific allocation for science education within the Office of the Director's budget. The fiscal year 1992 Appropriation Request provides for $2 million to support the NIH Science Education Program.