Division of Ocean Sciences - Fall/Winter 2001 Newsletter
NSF 02-055
(Replaces NSF 01-127)

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The COSEE AO is out!

We are delighted to announce that OCE’s Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the COSEE (Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence) initiative was posted on the NSF website on October 11, 2001. With the issuance of this AO, OCE hopes to initiate development of a network of Centers around the country that will coordinate and promote ocean science education in schools and in a variety of informal settings. All ocean scientists with an interest in becoming more involved in education are encouraged to access this document at http://www.geo.nsf.gov/oce/oceeduopps.htm and consider becoming involved in a COSEE regional or national planning initiative. Although the optional deadline for submitting letters of intent for COSEE has passed, it is not too late to get involved with an existing planning group for a Center or the network’s Central Coordinating Office. It is also possible to submit a full proposal by the January 18 deadline even if no planning letter has been submitted. For further details, please see the NSF website referenced above. You can also e-mail or call Dr. Susan Cook (e-mail: scook@nsf.org; phone 703-292-7592).

Our objective within the COSEE AO is to emphasize the very high priority that we place upon the role of the scientific professional in education. It is critical that NSF facilitate development of a system whereby ocean scientists with a genuine interest in education can contribute their scientific expertise and creativity to a range of educational activities. It is equally important that the COSEE network expands and diversifies the pool of scientists involved in significant educational and outreach activities.

To underscore the importance of this theme, the COSEE AO includes specific minimum eligibility requirements for the types of organizations and individuals that must be involved with each Center proposal. At a minimum, there must be at least one organization from each of three “sectors”: (1) the ocean science research community, (2) a formal education entity and (3) an informal education organization. Throughout the AO, NSF has stressed the intended catalytic nature of COSEE funding. The Foundation seeks to support people who will rise to the challenge of establishing new and creative partnerships, adding value to existing collaborations, and identifying new directions in ocean science education.

A Brief COSEE History

The development of COSEE has followed a path typical of most new programs starting with an internal white paper in which OCE staff recognized community input calling for a coordinated national effort to “make the best use of available resources for ocean education.” The document identified missed opportunities to “use the exciting discoveries of oceanographic research to catch the imagination of young minds and involve them in a lifetime of science learning” and noted a lack of national coordination for ocean education efforts. After internal circulation of the white paper, OCE and the Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) decided to support a more comprehensive community planning effort.

An advisory committee of ten community leaders from a range of educational sectors and interest groups (ocean science research/technology, undergraduate education, K-8 education; 9-12 education; informal education, teacher preparation and professional development, traditionally under-represented groups) was formed. These individuals planned, organized and facilitated a comprehensive COSEE needs assessment workshop May 23-26, 2000 at the Gulf Park campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. Seventy-five people attended and a 69 page workshop report was submitted to NSF in September 2000.

In early 2001, Dr. Susan Cook, a Senior Scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, joined NSF on a COSEE-focused IPA assignment and OCE formed a COSEE Implementation Phase Steering Committee. This group of nine scientists and educators, some who had participated in the original workshop and some who were new to COSEE, met July 24-25, 2001 at NSF. The group reviewed the original workshop report and identified a focused set of high-priority goals and activities that could be implemented with the modest funding available (about $1-1.5 million per year). Reports from both groups are posted at www.cosee.org. The Implementation Steering Committee Prior Recommendations (along with executive summaries of the recommendations from the original workshop) were also published in the October 2001 issue of Current, the journal of the National Association of Marine Educators.

The Review Process & NSF’s Long-term Commitment

NSF’s peer review process is rigorous and designed to identify the proposals most likely to generate highly innovative and productive research and education outcomes from a set of proposal submissions. After January 18, 2002, reviews will be solicited from ad hoc mail reviewers and/or a convened panel. Funding decisions are anticipated by June/July 2002.

As with the evolution of any new program, development of the COSEE network will be a long-term effort. OCE anticipates a commitment to the COSEE effort for at least ten years depending on future NSF budgets. We will continue to involve the oceanographic and educational communities in the evolution of COSEE by establishing steering committees to advise the Centers and the NSF on future directions for the program. This effort will be driven by community consensus and assessment of future needs. We expect that the organizational development of COSEE may require three to six years, possibly longer. We hope that its success will lead to expanded support for COSEE from both NSF and other sources. However COSEE’s success is the responsibility of the community. We look forward to receiving visionary proposals that will lead to major enhancements in oceanographic education for all Americans.

Sue Cook (scook@nsf.gov)
Lisa Rom (lrom@nsf.gov)

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