Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Future paths for the NSDL

David McArthur, National Science Digital Library: Shaping Education's Cyberinfrastructure, Computer, February 2008. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

... [T]he National Science Foundation is now rethinking NSDL's status as a research program. In one sense, it remains a typical NSF program, operating through the traditional NSF project-award cycle of publishing a solicitation, receiving proposals from R&D teams, and awarding the best among them. In other ways, it is an atypical program because the goal of its projects is not simply to broaden the knowledge base of science education research and practice; it is also to build an integrated enterprise that will persist and be valuable to learners and teachers of all ages.

But whether typical or not, NSDL has reached the point at which it must either change substantially or start winding down. Many NSF programs come and go in less than a decade, often after accomplishing their primary goals and laying a foundation for a new research agenda. As a library, NSDL is becoming mature enough to be an operational center. Because NSF is primarily a research agency, investing further in NSDL would seem to run counter to NSF's policy of not supporting routine science and education operations.

Nonetheless, there are compelling arguments for NSF's continued investment in NSDL ... I believe that NSDL gives NSF an opportunity to tighten the link among R&D projects: The library is poised to provide a standardized technical infrastructure that encourages—perhaps even requires—a much higher degree of project interaction.

In that mission, I see NSDL growing both as a platform for improving the productivity of educational resource development and transforming education research and also as a tool for creating and managing scientific knowledge about education and learning. More broadly, NSDL could be a key component in building a new cyberinfrastructure for education and education research.

NSF's continued investment in NSDL would have strong implications for how it funds education R&D and how it manages projects to foster effective partnerships among highly diverse and distributed groups of education researchers, developers, and practitioners....