To build and diversify a workforce that meets the nation's biomedical, behavioral and clinical research needs, the NIH invests in projects that provide science and health-related educational activities at the precollege level. These projects focus on students and teachers at the pre-kindergarten to grade 12 (P-12) level who come from underserved communities. The annual NIH SciEd Conference brings together individuals involved in these health and medicine- focused P-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) projects. This conference, which originally was the PI meeting for the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) program, has been held annually since 1991. Three years ago (in 2012) the conference expanded to include awardees and staff from all NIH- funded P-12 STEM programs. Each year 200-250 individuals participate in the conference, including PIs and Co-PIs from all NIH-funded P-12 STEM projects, project staff and evaluators, P-12 teachers who participate in projects, NIH staff, and representatives of other federal agencies involved in P-12 STEM education, including the Department of Education, NASA, NOAA and NSF. To the best of our knowledge, the annual NIH SciEd Conference is the only federally-funded P-12 STEM program that actively includes all of the key STEM agency programs. It thus plays an important role in interagency communication and building synergistic interactions among projects funded by different agencies. The goal of each 2.5-day NIH SciEd conference is to provide a forum for learning, sharing, dialogue, and networking among conference participants. This is accomplished via plenary, breakout and poster sessions, and networking opportunities. The outcomes of the conferences include higher quality projects and project evaluations, a reduced incidence of projects reinventing the wheel, and the development of collaborations between NIH-funded projects as well as synergistic interactions with P-12 projects and programs funded by the other federal STEM agencies.
Specific Aims for the NIH SciEd Conference are:
SPECIFIC AIM 1 : Provide updates on trends, issues and challenges in P-12 STEM education that are relevant to NIH awardees.
SPECIFIC AIM 2 : Inform and educate the NIH P-12 STEM community about rigorous evaluation models and instruments.
SPECIFIC AIM 3 : Provide opportunities for awardees to share information, best practices and challenges; provide mentoring for new SEPA projects; and support the formation of collaborations. The conference will be held in the Washington, DC area. It is planned by an Organizing Committee of NIH SciEd PIs and Key Personnel, which changes each year. A bound report for each conference provides a synopsis of all sessions and is disseminated to participants, federal P-12 STEM staff and senior NIH officials.
The NIH supports projects that educate pre-college students, teachers and the public about NIH clinical and basic research. These projects thus play an important role in the translational science process. The annual NIH SciEd conference facilitates learning, sharing, networking and collaboration among these projects and with NIH staff, thus enhancing each project's work.