Monthly Archives: September 2013

Archive Time Saver Series Part 3: Saving Searches

45376198You’ve searched through the Archive and found a great resource, or two, or maybe twenty? There’s no reason to put your valuable time to waste by not saving these resources! You could bookmark what you found using your internet browser’s tools, but if you’re like me, you probably have a very long list of web pages listed under your favorites. Don’t let your resources get lost in that! Try these two Archive Tools instead: (Don’t forget, you need to be a registered member to access these tools and registration is free!)

My Folders

This is the tool to use when you want to save an individual resource. On the resource page, look for the “Save It!” section right above the resource description.  Simply click on the menu/down arrow next to “Save It!” and select “New Folder.” Then, click on the red “Save” button and you’re done! You now have a folder with a resource in it.

To change the name of your folder or to add a new folder to save resources in, click on the blue “Edit Folders” button. You can also access your folders under “My Archive” near the top of the Archive page.

If you’d like to view a video of how the process works, view this help page.

My Saved Searches

Want to save an entire search instead of just one resource? Try the My Saved Searches tool! On a search results page, look for the “Save It!” section right above your results. Type in a name for your search, click on the red “Save This Search Button,” and your search is saved. To access all of your searches hover over “My Archive” near the top of the Archive page and click on “My Saved Searches.”

We hope that you find these two tools to be a useful addition to your time-saving arsenal. Want more help saving time in the Archive? Post your question below or contact us.

Happy Searching!

Are we having PhUn yet? The value of outreach in science and education

The bad news first….

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Figure of estimated annual test score gains around the world. The US is in black. Figure from EducationNext.

The United States lags behind other countries in K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.   Even the U.S. rate of progress to improve science and math achievement is bested by 24 countries including Latvia, Chile and Brazil, who have the highest growth rates.

The public perception of science is declining.  From 1999 to 2009 the public perception that science and technology are the greatest achievements of the U.S. fell from 47% to 27%.  In addition, only 17% of those surveyed thought U.S. scientific achievement is the best in the world.  When scientists were polled, 85% felt that the public’s lack of understanding of science was a significant problem, and 49% believed that the public has an unrealistic expectation about the speed at which scientific advancements are made.

Federal support for research and development is decreasing.  U.S. federal expenditures on research and development is expected to decrease by 6.5% in fiscal year 2013, and federal spending on research as a percent of GDP will fall to 0.8%, a 40 year low. This is ominous data given that science and technology are required to solve many of the problems facing our country now and in the future. Not to mention the overwhelming evidence that investment in scientific research is a proven economic engine.

Now the good news…it’s time to have some PhUn!

The statements above paint a gloomy picture about the direction of science education and funding. They also raise the question (at least in my mind) of what we, as scientists and teachers, can do to reverse these trends. Is it sufficient for scientists to simply hunker down, spend more time in the lab, submit more grants, and be satisfied with the notion that the public just doesn’t get it, or that it is the problem of teachers to fix STEM education? Are K-12 educators to just sit back and hope that updated content and innovative lesson plans materialize out of thin air?  If these options are not sufficient (they aren’t), then what other choices do we have?  Scientific outreach may be the key, or at least an important part of the solution.

The purpose of scientific outreach is to enhance public awareness and understanding of science.  Outreach does not have to be a daunting, all-consuming task.
From the perspective of a scientist, it can be achieved by making a visit to a classroom, talking with your institute’s public affairs office about an important research finding, or writing a letter to your local representatives. K-12 educators can facilitate this process by being familiar with the ongoing work of local colleges and universities, inviting scientists to the classroom, or even getting involved in summer research projects.  What if you’ve never participated in science outreach before?  It is conceivable, maybe even likely, that this is not in the comfort zone of many scientists. In addition, teachers may not know where to find research opportunities that could benefit their classrooms, or feel comfortable contacting local scientists.  Thankfully, professional organizations like the American Physiological Society (APS) can help.  APS has great resources for physiologists on how to conduct advocacy and K-12 education outreach.

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Students learning about the PhUn of heart-healthy exercise. Image from www.phunweek.org.

Among the K-12 outreach activities offered by APS, Physiology Understanding (PhUn) Week is the widest reaching event having taken place annually in the first week of November since 2005. The goal of PhUn Week is to foster interaction between scientists and local schools and now reaches 12000 students annually.  I have been fortunate to be involved with PhUn Week over the last several years and have organized small and large PhUn Week events.  Typically, I bring a team of scientists to a local elementary or middle school where we set up interactive, hands-on stations for the kids.  An example of a station that we might include is to build your own glomerulus (the filtering unit of the kidney).  We spend a few minutes talking about the purpose of the glomerulus and its basic anatomy.  Then, students are presented with a series of different materials from which they can use their knowledge of glomerular function and anatomy to build their own model.  When students are finished building their models, we test them to see how good they filter the “blood”.  You can view this and other activities in this Archive Collection.

The example of PhUn Week illustrates how outreach can foster collaboration between scientists and K-12 educators promote educational resource development to enhance scientific achievement, and improve the public perception of science.  Ultimately, these outreach opportunities will help reinforce the pipeline of the future scientists who will be solving the medical and technological problems of the future. For scientists who are hesitant to interact with the public, don’t underestimate the power that improved public perception of science and scientific literacy has to influence the budget priorities of the federal government.   So let’s get out there and have some PhUn!