The engineering education research (EER) community is engaged in a mission to improve the education of engineers across their lifespan. EER researchers working on federally funded projects are now being asked to become progressively transparent about the nature of data that they collect and to share that data with other researchers. This drive for transparency has its genesis both in the need for accountability and verifiability of research results, as well as the realization that advances in data sharing capabilities are essential for a field to conduct transformative research and to impact potential audiences. Although data management and sharing are seen as advantageous, no examination as yet has been done of data sharing practices and capabilities among EER researchers. It is important to understand current practices, adoption patterns and motivations, as well as future community needs related to data to fully leverage the benefits of data sharing and create a core knowledge base for the community as well as eventual creation of large datasets that can benefit other decision-makers from students and parents to administrators and policy makers. Sharing data across projects is more likely to provide a representative picture as well as contextual variation in findings, lead to useful meta-analyses, and help avoid repetitive research and policy making. This EAGER project will develop a data ecosystem for the EER community and bring together two major areas -- engineering education and data sharing cyberinfrastructure (i.e. "big data") -- that have not been funded together so far.
Our proposed work will (a) Understand the culture of data creation, exchange, and use that exists within the community of engineering education researchers as well as the consumers of this research; and (b) Identify a promising collection of available data sharing mechanisms to seed an initial development effort and present guidelines for the uptake of identified mechanisms. We will collect data through interviews and focus groups (N=100) and surveys (N=300) with a representative sample of the research community. We will supplement these efforts with secondary data collection and targeted understanding of large-scale efforts. We will then examine currently existing data sharing mechanisms that exist and can be utilized by the EER community. The final product of this work will be guidelines for improving data sharing including design requirements, analysis of existing mechanisms, and an initial framework for a cyberinfrastructure to support such activities.
This research will benefit the entire engineering education community by providing a rubric for sharing data that reflects community-driven priorities, best practices, and design principles that can form the foundation of a data sharing practice and system for engineering education research. This project will potentially impact hundreds of faculty and students engaged in engineering education research and teaching. The project is broadly inclusive with the goal to involve stakeholders from a diverse range of institutions with a variety of backgrounds. An infrastructure for data sharing has the potential to infuse a fundamental perspective change in how knowledge is shared and used and, in the long-term, we expect this project to bridge the communities of researchers and practitioners.