The National Science Foundation (NSF) is preparing details for a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education funding opportunity in fiscal year 2016. The new funding is designed to engage minority students who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields to choose majors and pursue careers in STEM. The program draws heavily on research from several sources, including the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) and the Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “Transformative Scale: The Future of Growing What Works,” which discusses “transformative scale” as a way to achieve rapid social change.
INCLUDES, which stands for Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES), will provide grants to networks of organizations and institutions that use replicable approaches to broaden participation in STEM fields.
The funding opportunity will address the continuing urgent need to diversify the U.S. scientific workforce. That need was documented in a 2011 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads, as well as in other reports. The NAS report was guided by a steering committee, chaired by Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski III. Dr. Hrabowski is the founder of the Meyerhoff Program (PAESMEM 1996) and president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
To address the report’s findings and other research on diversity issues in STEM, INCLUDES will help to quicken the pace of STEM talent expansion.
“We are eager to make much faster progress on improving the participation of people from all groups in STEM, particularly groups that have been underrepresented—women, racial and ethnic minorities and people with disabilities,” said Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, assistant director of Education and Human Resources (EHR) at NSF. “We know there are terrific efforts going on all around the country, but they don’t necessarily all connect with each other, share best practices or work at scale.”
Consequently, INCLUDES will solicit proposals for pilot programs to find ways to reverse a decades-old pattern.
The first pilots will seek to streamline and share ideas for broadening participation in STEM across institutional and professional organizational partners. These institutional and professional organizational partners will be funded to develop, scale up and measure current or new models and programs for nurturing STEM talent at the undergraduate level and beyond.
“We are still working on many of the implementation details for INCLUDES,” said Dr. Sylvia James, director of NSF’s Division of Human Resource Development (HRD) and a co-chair of the INCLUDES implementation group. “We are in the process of working on the official launch for FY 2016 funding opportunities.”
She encourages the community to follow the NSF Budget Request for FY 2017, which provides additional plans for INCLUDES.
Ferrini-Mundy said INCLUDES staff will reach out to the PAESMEM community, recognizing its “effective efforts at inclusion and broadening participation,” to help spread the word about the new opportunity.