Based on the recommendations from the Warsaw workshop, the U.S. State Department’s Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP) agreed to support a two-year pilot project aimed at developing a network of faculty in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region able to teach on dual use issues through exposure to and incorporation of tenets of responsible conduct of research5 (for the Statement of Task see Appendix B). Briefly, the project is being implemented in phases, with a planning meeting that was held in late spring 2011 (see next section) to design a general framework for faculty development workshops based on the successful model of the Summer Institute organized by the National Academies and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for undergraduate biology faculty (The National Academies Summer Institute [NASI]; next page).6 In contrast to the Summer Institute, however, which is designed for undergraduate faculty-educators, the participants in these workshops will be faculty who teach graduate students, post-docs and other laboratory personnel. The participants at the planning meeting also began to prepare for a pilot test of the Egyptian Prototype Institute (EPI), the first faculty workshop in early 2012. In the final phase of the project the participants will implement some of the methods learned at the EPI at their home institutions and a final report will be produced that will assess the initial outcomes and draw lessons for future efforts. This report serves as a summary of the outcomes of the planning meeting.
5 The mission of BEP is to “develop cooperative international programs that promote the safe, secure and responsible use of biological materials that are at risk of accidental release or intentional misuse” (see http://www.bepstate.net/). BEP provides funding for such programs in certain high priority regions, including the MENA, South East Asia, the former Soviet Union, and sub-Saharan and East Africa. As discussed above, the finding of the Warsaw workshop (also a BEP project) “…the lack of faculty able to teach on responsible conduct of research and dual use issues given the diversity of scientific fields, interests and experiences involved…”(page 3) supports using the concept of responsible conduct of research as an educational vehicle for dual use issues. The MENA was chosen to pilot this project in part because there are fewer BEP-funded activities in these countries as opposed to the other regions of interest to the BEP and this project has the potential to grow into a major regional activity. The project has also become more interesting in the wake of the Arab Spring because the emphasis on responsible conduct and improved teaching techniques is potentially attractive to countries with increased emphasis on expanding their science capacity as part of the newly instituted reforms.
6 In the context of this report, the terms “workshop” and “faculty (development) workshop” are interchangeable.
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES SUMMER INSTITUTES
FOR UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION IN BIOLOGY
Introductory science courses at large universities in the United States serve as the portals that connect undergraduates to frontiers in research and scientific ways of thinking. An introductory undergraduate biology class might be the only exposure many students have to the life sciences, or to any of the sciences. It often serves as the best opportunity to interest students in a biomedical research or other life science career.
However, according to the 2003 NRC report, BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists, teaching practices have not kept pace with advances in scientific research. Consequently, the gateway through which most students pass is antiquated, misrepresents the interdisciplinary, collaborative, evidence-based culture of science, and fails to implement current knowledge about how people learn. Bio2010 identified faculty development as a crucial component in improving undergraduate biology education. Therefore, the authoring Committee suggested the creation of a Summer Institute during which life sciences faculty would work to improve their educational skills by integrating current scientific research with new pedagogical approaches to create courses that actively engage students in the ways that scientists think.
One substantive result of this recommendation has been the development of the annual National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education in Biology.7 This unique Institute is designed to model the scientific teaching principles on which it is founded and draws on the expertise of both participants and presenters.
The Summer Institute has provided a venue each year for teams of faculty from primarily research-intensive universities to meet for five days of in-depth discussions, demonstrations, and working sessions on research-based approaches to undergraduate biology education. The idea is to generate the same atmosphere as a Cold Spring Harbor research course, but with the topic being issues in education rather than, for instance, phage genetics. Current research in effective practices in undergraduate science education, active learning, assessment, and diversity are woven through the week, creating a forum for participants to share ideas with each other and develop innovative instructional materials that they are expected to implement when they return to their own campuses.
Initiated with a pilot institute in 2003, the Summer Institute has convened each year during the last week of June on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The current target audiences have been faculty and academic leaders from universities where large classes, especially at the beginners’ level for both life sciences majors and for students with other career goals, provide significant impediments to reform. Some universities have sent a team of 2-3 people to one Institute. Others have sent multiple teams (consisting of different people each year) over two or more years. The Institute has been supported primarily through funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (through summer 2011) with additional support from Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement and the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund.
Participants are selected based upon a rigorous application process that is overseen by an NRC Committee. There is a particular emphasis on including pre-tenured as well as more
7 For additional information see http://academiessummerinstitute.org and Pfund et al. 2009 available at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/324/5926/470.
senior faculty as members of the team. The Institute also trains a cadre of mentor/facilitators who work with participating teams each summer. Many of these facilitators are alumni from Summer Institutes in previous years, selected for this honor based upon observations of their performance during the Institute they attended.
Each annual session consists of a series of plenary sessions in the mornings and facilitated small group activities during the afternoons. All plenary sessions model the kinds of evidence-based active teaching and learning that the Institute stresses for improving undergraduate education. Topics include subjects such as active teaching, how people learn, formative and summative assessment, teaching to diverse student populations, mentoring, and working with colleagues to improve teaching and learning.
Each small group consists of participants from three university teams and focuses on producing a “teachable tidbit” within some broad area of biology or interconnected disciplines (e.g. biology/chemistry, biology/mathematics). A tidbit is an integrated module that combines aspects of classroom, laboratory or field experiences, assessment, and techniques to help diverse student populations learn more effectively. Small groups are given time to interact with each other during the week to critique each other’s tidbits as they are developed. Each team then presents its “tidbit” on the next-to-last day. Each tidbit is peer-reviewed by other participants, facilitators, and members of the organizing Committee.
All resources and products of each Institute are collected on a National Academies portal and made available to all participants, current and previous.
At the recently completed 2011 Summer Institute 39 participants from 16 universities participated. Over the course of the Institute (2004-2010) 342 people have participated from 110 institutions in 41 states. Because so many of these participants serve as instructors in large lecture-style courses, collectively they have taught more than 250,000 undergraduates.
The National Academies recognizes the commitment of these participants by naming each as an “Education Fellow in the Life Sciences” for the year following their attendance at the Summer Institute and by notifying key academic leaders on their campuses about this honor.
From its inception, the Summer Institute has been a research project. Data from participants are collected and analyzed regularly to determine the impact of this initiative. In addition, HHMI sponsors a mid-year meeting for one representative from each university team approximately 6 months after their participation in an institute to measure success, challenges, and new activities that have emerged from their participation.
Because of its success to date, HHMI recently provided a new award to the Summer Institute that will enable its expansion to several institutes each year in various regions across the United States. Four of these regional institutes were organized in 2011.8 It is envisioned that up to 8 regional institutes will be held each year over the next four years of the grant. These new institutes will adhere to the structure and emphasis of the Madison session but will also expand the pool of educators beyond faculty in research-intensive universities. Data about the participants in these institutes and how they change their approaches to teaching and student learning will continue to be collected and analyzed.
The NRC appointed a Committee (see Appendix C) to oversee the project; its first task was to organize the planning meeting to bring together life science educators from the MENA region and experts and leaders in dual use issues and science education from other parts of the worlds. Although the original plan called for taking a broad regional focus, it was decided that concentrating on a single country offered the best opportunity to carry out the test of a pilot workshop and to assess the implementation of the results. Egypt was chosen9 and initial contacts were made with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (www.bibalex.org) because of its commitment to education and extensive ties to the international scientific community. Political conditions in Egypt caused the meeting to be moved to the academy of sciences for the developing world (TWAS10; www.twas.org), in Trieste, Italy, which has close ties to the Library.11 The meeting was held from May 30 — June 1, 2011. In addition to the members of the Committee and NRC staff, experts from Egypt, Europe and the United States took part in the meeting. The meeting agenda and list of participants may be found in Appendix D.
As with the earlier workshop in Warsaw, a key emphasis of the Trieste meeting was the prominent role for experts in active learning methods of teaching. After an initial discussion of the project’s goals and some of the fundamental concepts around dual use and responsible conduct of research, the meeting focused on examples of education and “train-the-trainer” programs that employ active learning methods. The organizers gave participants a chance to experience the methods for themselves, using the techniques featured in the NASI. As described in Box 1, participants were divided into small groups tasked with developing broad goals and concrete learning objectives for the EPI. This set of activities provided the basis for a general discussion on the final day on the next steps. These conversations and the Committee’s subsequent deliberations provided the basis for the remainder of this report. This document is intended to serve as global guidelines applicable not only to Egypt but to any country wishing to adopt this educational model that combines principles of active learning and training with attention to norms of responsible science. It aims to address the unmet need of respectfully incorporating into existing science teaching and research (especially in the field of emerging infectious diseases) the ideas of conducting science responsibly, of cultivating a culture of laboratory safety, and of raising awareness within the local
9 The choice of the country was influenced by the Arab Spring events and the need to avoid duplication of efforts by other educational projects in the region also funded by the U.S. Government.
10 The acronym TWAS reflects the old name “Third World Academy of Sciences” that has been replaced with the name “the academy of sciences for the developing world”
11 The TWAS regional office for Africa is at the Bibliotheca.
scientific community of the consequences of misusing research with dual use potential (NSABB 2008; NRC 2009b).