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D-Lib Magazine
March 2004

Volume 10 Number 3

ISSN 1082-9873

The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program

New Projects in Fiscal Year 2003


Lee L. Zia1
Division of Undergraduate Education
National Science Foundation
Arlington, Virginia 22230




In fall 2003, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) program2 made its fourth set of grants in three basic tracks: Collections, Services, and Targeted Research. Along with earlier efforts funded in fiscal years (FY) 2000-02 these new projects are creating and developing a national digital library of high quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educational resources intended for use by learners at all levels. By supporting broad access to reliable and authoritative learning and teaching materials and associated services in a digital environment, the National Science Digital Library will encourage and sustain continual improvements in the quality of formal STEM education, and also serve as a resource for informal and lifelong learning.

In the latter half of the 1990s various planning meetings and workshops (see [1-6]) laid out the vision and framework for the NSDL program. More recent reports and white papers continue to inform the evolution of the program, including observations on international issues and future research challenges (see [7-10]). For a full list of relevant reports and background documents, see <>. Proposal submissions have increased steadily from eighty in the program's initial year, to one hundred one in FY2001, to one hundred fifty-six in FY2002, and to one hundred ninety-three in FY2003. In FY2000 ten projects were funded in the Collections track, nine in the Services track, and one in the Targeted Research track. In FY2001 eighteen new Collections projects began, along with thirteen in Services, and three in Targeted Research. These were followed in FY2002 by twenty-five, eight, and nine new projects in these three tracks, respectively. Brief descriptions of each project appear in [11], [12], and [13] respectively, with full abstracts available in the Awards section at <>. Two NSF directorates, the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) have provided significant co-funding for twenty-two projects in these first three fiscal years, illustrating the NSDL program's facilitation of the integration of research and education, an important strategic objective of the NSF.

For the FY2003 funding cycle, the one hundred ninety-three proposals sought approximately $110 million in total funding. Thirty-five new awards have been made with a cumulative budget of approximately $17.25 million. These include eighteen in the Collections track, eight in the Services track, and nine in the Targeted Research track. As in the first three years of the program, sister directorates to the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) are providing significant co-funding of projects. Participating directorates include GEO and MPS from before, as well as the Directorate for Biological Sciences, and the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. Complete information on the technical and organizational progress of NSDL including links to current Standing Committees and community workspaces may be found at the NSDL Communications Portal, see <>. All workspaces are open to the public, and interested organizations and individuals are encouraged to learn more about NSDL and join in its development.

In FY2004 the NSDL program will again support projects in the Services and Targeted Research tracks, but has replaced the Collections track with a Pathways track. Within the Services track, two particular types of projects are strongly encouraged: (1) selection services and (2) usage development workshops.

  • Pathways projects should assume a stewardship role for the educational content and/or the services needed by a broad community of learners.
  • Selection services projects should focus on increasing the amount of high-quality STEM educational content known to NSDL.
  • Usage development workshops should promote the use of NSDL and its resources by various communities of learners.

These three elements reflect an appropriate expansion in emphasis for NSDL from its initial (and necessary) collecting of educational resources, materials, and other digital learning objects, towards enabling learners to "connect" or otherwise find pathways to resources that are appropriate to their needs. Simultaneously, these projects should develop both the capacities of individual users and the capacity of the larger community of learners. In addition, the workshops will enable the study of user information-seeking behavior and user interaction with specific NSDL content. The deadline for proposals for the FY04 funding cycle is April 14, 2004, and the full solicitation is available at <>.

Following is a list of the new FY03 awards displaying the official NSF award number, the project title, the grantee institution, and the name of the Principal Investigator (PI). A condensed description of the project is also included. Full abstracts are available from the Awards Section at the NSDL program site <>. (Projects with multiple institutions are formal collaborations.) The projects are displayed by track and are listed by award number. In addition, eight of these projects have explicit relevance to applications to pre-K to 12 education (indicated with a * below). In addition, four other projects clearly have potential for application to the pre-K to 12 arena (indicated with a ** below).

Collections Track

DUE-0332872. A Digital Rich Media Library of Animal Behavior. Institution: Cornell University - State. PI: Bradbury. In this project investigators from Macaulay Library, the world's largest open repository of recordings of animal behavior and natural history, are developing i) annotation tools that allow remote experts to log metadata about events and objects within a recording, and ii) tools to search the resulting database. These tools include the ability to move directly to portions of a recording that fit a query, to edit and assemble suitable segments of recordings for delivery, and to visualize and interactively map features that enhance the accessibility of the collection to users.

DUE-0333363. Institution: Marine Biological Laboratory. PI: Patterson; DUE-0333402. Collaborative Project: Digital Educational Resources in Microbial Ecology, Evolution and Diversity (DERMEED-1). Institution: Montana State University. PI: Mogk. This project is aggregating and disseminating images, data, and scientific contributions from related projects (e.g. micro*scope, Tree of Life) to a diverse community of educators and students. In addition, it is making available the Taxonomic Name Server—a mechanism to handle taxonomic metadata—through the NSDL network. Its scope covers microbial evolution, diversity and ecology and life in extreme environments, and bridges the fields of molecular biology, genomics, microbial ecology, and Earth system science.

DUE-0333426*. CaREN: Career Resources Education Network for STEM. Institution: Education Development Center. PI: Hanson. The Gender and Diversities Institute is developing and maintaining a science, technology, engineering and mathematics career development digital library aimed at engaging middle and early high school students. The resources and the user services and interface emphasize the needs and interests of currently underrepresented populations in STEM education and careers, including females, students of color, and youth with disabilities.

DUE-0333475. Fire Science Multimedia Library. Institution: Worcester Polytechnic Institute. PI: Woycheese. This project is developing a prototype of a Fire Science Multimedia Library (FSML) to aggregate, categorize, enhance, and distribute resources for the fire science community. It enables educators, students (including casual learners), researchers, and practitioners in a host of fire science and fire-related fields to access a compilation of multimedia, articles, and similar content for research and education.

DUE-0333520. Materials Digital Library: Institution: Kent State University. PI: Bartolo. Investigators at Kent State, MIT, and the University of Michigan are working with colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology to identify and collect materials science educational resources. Submission, editing, and composing tools enable experts and novices to characterize contributions to the MatDL using Dublin Core and IEEE Learning Object Metadata schemes as well as domain-specific markup languages such as Materials ML.

DUE-0333529. Collaborative Research: THREDDS Second Generation. Institution: Northwestern University. PI: Edelson. DUE-0333600. Institution: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. PI: Domenico. This collaborative project is enabling educators and researchers to publish, locate, analyze, and visualize data in a wide variety of educational settings. In turn, data providers can create inventory catalogs of their data holdings and educational module builders may author compound documents with embedded pointers to environmental datasets and analysis tools. The original investigating team is now enlarging its set of contributing disciplines and the variety of data in the collection.

DUE-0333530. Collaborative Project: The Rosetta Project- ALL Language Archive. Institution: Eastern Michigan University. PI: Aristar-Dry. DUE-0333689. Institution: Stanford University. PI: Keller. DUE-0333727. Institution: The Long Now Foundation. PI: Mason. This collaboration brings together the Rosetta Project at The Long Now Foundation, the LINGUIST List, Stanford University, Eastern Michigan University, the Open Language Archive Community, and the Endangered Language Fund to build a publicly accessible online reference work and archive for all documented human languages. This project is developing a major sub-component of the Rosetta archive—the ALL Language Word List Database, a collection of 200 term core vocabulary lists for the languages of the world, currently supporting 1,300 languages, with an expectation to increase coverage to 2,500 languages.

DUE-0333555**. PER-CENTRAL: A Digital Library Supporting Physics Education Research. Institution: North Carolina State University. PI: Beichner. This project provides a virtual clearinghouse where physics education researchers (PER) and teachers can easily find the very latest work in physics education along with the best of what has been learned from previous research, including innovative, research-based instructional methods. The centerpiece of this effort is peer-reviewed electronic publication of much-needed PER research and scholarly output, freely available on the Internet.

DUE-0333613. An Intelligent Digital Environment for Groundwater Education and Research. Institution: Michigan State University. PI: Li. This project couples an existing digital laboratory to a comprehensive collection of groundwater science learning materials, visualizations and accompanying tools, spatial data sets, documentation, and a suite of related problems and exercises. In this integrated learning environment students access information as well as create it, thus enabling them to learn, to practice, to explore, and to discover.

DUE-0333623. Project ENABLE: Learning through Associations in a Grid based Bioinformatics Digital Library. Institution: Indiana University. PI: Mostafa. This project is applying advances in digital library (DL) technologies to the emerging domain of bioinformatics, and developing interaction tools that support learning based on identifying and visualizing associations among key dimensions of bioinformatics resources. The project team is also integrating DL and Grid computing technologies, and utilizes bioinformatics resources such as the Drosophila Genome Flybase, the IUBio Archive of euGenes eukaryote genes data, and the Bionet news archive and related software.

DUE-0333646. JiTTDL: The Just-in-Time Teaching Digital Library. Institution: United States Air Force Academy. PI: Patterson. This user-contributor digital collection serves practitioners of Just-in Time Teaching (JiTT), a pedagogical strategy that blends active learning with web technology in a traditional classroom setting. Holdings consist of JiTT assignments, assignment construction methods, analysis rubrics, classroom strategies development, assessment strategies and results—all sharable, developed and contributed by science faculty from eighty plus institutions and many disciplines. A "new adopter start up service" eases technical challenges of implementing JiTT and enables adopters to concentrate on classroom teaching and learning strategies.

DUE-0333672. CAUSEweb: A Digital Library of Undergraduate Statistics Education. Institution: Ohio State University Research Foundation. PI: Pearl. Through the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education (CAUSE) thirty institutions and a large diverse group of reviewers and associate editors are providing peer review of high-quality resources to support teachers of undergraduate statistics. Emphasis is placed on resources that have been shown through evidence-based research to improve student learning. CAUSEweb is collaborating with MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) to implement its review process and with the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse to develop federated searching capabilities and other bridges to the full set of NSDL projects.

DUE-0333701. THE DIGITAL CHEMISTRY LIBRARY. Institution: University of California-Berkeley. PI: Kubinec. This project establishes a digital collection of tightly integrated chemistry learning objects. A major focus of the project is the development of descriptive chemistry learning object vocabularies to identify analysis methods, models, and context machinery. These enable library users to reassemble content into cross-disciplinary curricula in new ways that replace earlier labor-intensive techniques. Moreover, these methods enable students to reassemble what they are learning into organizational structures that can be optimized to meet their learning objectives or goals.

DUE-0333705*. Mobilizing Enduring NSDL Resources in Plate Tectonics Research for Earth Science Education. Institution: University of California-San Diego Scripps Inst of Oceanography. PI: Miller. This project is developing a data-oriented digital library collection supporting education in plate tectonics. Earth scientists and educators are working together to link items in the collection to the historic and modern marine geological and geophysical data in support of inquiry-based teaching methods. Semantic resolution across collection-specific metadata is also being developed, thus enriching the metadata content provided to the NSDL globally.

DUE-0333714**. Electronic Encyclopedia of Earthquakes. Institution: University of Southern California. PI: Jordan. This project is expanding the Electronic Encyclopedia of Earthquakes (EEE) which maintains a wide variety of earthquake-related information, including curriculum resources for studying earth science, engineering, physics, and mathematics. Evaluation of the educational benefits and usability of the materials for K-12 and college educators is being conducted, and usability tools such as Walden's Path and AskE3 are being assessed.

DUE-0333715*. The Tree of Life Project: A Digital Library of Biodiversity Information. Institution: University of Arizona. PI: Maddison. This project provides information about biodiversity and phylogeny of all organisms that is contributed and compiled collaboratively by more than 350 biologists from over 20 different countries. The evolutionary tree of life is presented as an integrated whole, instilling users with a vision of the genetic connectedness of all life, the cornerstone of modern biological knowledge and its organization. The collection is aimed specifically at K-16 learners and includes exercises, lesson plans, media, educational games, news items, and user-generated materials.

DUE-0333722**. Exploratorium Online: Exhibit-Based Science Learning and Teaching Digital Library. Institution: Exploratorium. PI: Hsi. This project is developing a digital library collection for lifelong learning culled from the Exploratorium's 650 interactive exhibits. In addition it is creating guidelines for cataloging digital exhibit-based science resources in established metadata element set standards (e.g., Dublin Core and IEEE LOM) that capture the unique quality and pedagogical value of museum digital assets.

DUE-0333723*. SIMPLE Science: Image-based learning tools for K-12 education. Institution: Center for Image Processing in Education. PI: Moore. This project is promoting the use of image processing and analysis (IPA) in K-12 education by providing: 1) easy to use tools for learning; 2) access to extensive and updateable archives of imaging data; and 3) a pedagogical structure that helps educators use imaging data to support attainment of specific national education standards.

Services Track

DUE-0333493*. Collaboration Services for the Math Forum Digital Library. Institution: Drexel University. PI: Stahl. This project is exploring the direct collaborative use of digital libraries by small groups of people working together, laying the groundwork for the development of collaborative learning environments as digital library services. To model and test a case of such an approach, the PI and team are working with the Math Forum to extend the appeal and mathematical depth of its "Problem of the Week" feature by bringing students together in small, online groups for asynchronous and synchronous collaborative learning at a distance.

DUE-0333497. Collaborative Project: The OCKHAM Library Network, Integrating the NSDL into Traditional Library Services. Institution: University of Arizona. PI: Frumkin. DUE-0333531. Institution: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. PI: Fox. DUE-0333601. Institution: Emory University. PI: Halbert. This project is developing networked middleware to facilitate and expand access to the content and services of the NSDL through the existing national infrastructure of traditional libraries and their service programs. Additionally, the PI team is creating a reference model for integrating NSDL into traditional library services and evaluating the utility, usage, and impacts of the local library tested services on the participating campus communities via web log analysis, focus groups, and usability studies.

DUE-0333551. The Internet Scout Project's Targeted Information Provision Service. Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison. PI: Strikwerda. This NSDL project brings together a diverse body of collections, services, and targeted research coordinated through the Core Integration (CI) team in order to provide a portal to digital science technology, engineering and math (STEM) materials. As part of NSDL, the Internet Scout Project is creating a Targeted Information Provision Service (TIPS) that provides customized reports and bulletins for NSDL users by harvesting and integrating records from both the NSDL Scout Report archives and the NSDL central metadata repository. This service is also continuing to provide the NSDL Scout Reports and archives while adding the new TIPS service created in collaboration with the Core Integration team. This new service allows NSDL users to create customized TIPS Bulletins that sends them information on newly added STEM resources culled from both the NSDL Scout Reports and the NSDL central metadata repository.

DUE-0333580. Web Lecture Archiving System for Professional Society Meetings. Institution: University of Michigan Ann Arbor. PI: Neal. This project is developing a device and associated software to capture lectures from professional society meetings and permit their cataloging and playback on the World Wide Web. By making this intellectual output permanently available to institutions and individuals around the world, it broadens access to those unable to attend such conferences but who are still very interested in some of the proceedings. Improved automated metadata extraction from each lecture is under development, along with advanced capabilities to archive keywords extracted from the audio track of a lecture.

DUE-0333590. Fostering Reuse and Interoperability for the NSDL. Institution: Eduworks Corporation. PI: Robson. This project is developing a suite of "best practices" documents and resources to foster reusability and interoperability of NSDL holdings. Major objectives include: developing and disseminating general NSDL guidelines and recommended practices for designing reusable content and using existing tools to do so; conducting workshops on content reuse and interoperability; and developing recommendations for how collections can expose reusable content in searches.

DUE-0333645. Enhancing the Searching of Mathematics. Institution: Design Science, Inc. PI: Miner. This project is developing searching algorithms, markup guidelines and metadata practices for enhancing searching of mathematics, with an emphasis on MathML-based technology. In addition, the project is organizing two workshops in cooperation with the Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, bringing together toolmakers, content providers, librarians, and other NSDL stakeholders: i) to identify and share current approaches, practical workflow and business constraints and ii) to disseminate results to a broader audience and begin formalizing consensus on best practices.

DUE-0333694. techexplorer and MathDL: Robust Support for Dynamic Web-based Mathematics. Institution: Integre Technical Publishing Company, Inc. PI: Dooley. To improve rendering and manipulating mathematics on the web, this project is developing techexplorer, a cross-platform, cross-browser plug-in that displays mathematics written in either MathML or TEX markup. Capabilities include editing, computing (via Java applets or computational web services), and animating of mathematical expressions; support for Dublin Core and IEEE standards for learning object metadata; and implementation of the World Wide Web Consortium's Document Object Model (for manipulation of XML data) and MathML specifications.

DUE-0333818*. Integrating and extending the Instructional Architect: An instructional service for the NSDL. Institution: Utah State University. PI: Recker. This project is integrating the Instructional Architect system into the NSDL Core Integration functionality including access management, discovery and search, and an open specification to support the use of Instructional Architect by NSDL portals and collections. Extensions include support for sharing instructional products, for authoring different kinds of instructional resources, for personalized recommendations, for interoperability with commercial learning management systems, and for student use.

Targeted Research Track

DUE-0333069. NSDL: Towards Reusable and Shareable Courseware: Topic Maps-based Digital Libraries. Institution: Winston-Salem State University. PI: Dicheva. This project is studying the application of the new ISO standard, Topic Maps, within the framework of NSDL. Such an approach supports efficient context-based retrieval of learning resources and understanding of the ontological structure of specific subject domains. Furthermore it provides a unifying framework for standards-based knowledge and information representation and management that can support reusability, shareability, and interoperability of the learning content. Thus, such ontology-aware digital course libraries may offer an alternative solution to courseware authors and users.

DUE-0333526. Enabling Large Scale Coherency Among Mathematical Texts in the NSDL. Institution: Cornell University - Endowed. PI: Constable. This project is extending common authoring tools to easily produce semantically anchored documents in which elements of expository mathematical text, such as definitions and theorems, are formally linked to their implemented counterparts in computer systems. This work overcomes technical problems associated with creating large-scale coherent collections of authoritative mathematical texts; explores a new method for using computers to assure precise common reference among the texts; and provides economical means of authoring semantically anchored texts and improving static text-based resources by anchoring them.

DUE-0333547. A Self-sustainable Digital Library for Evolving Communities. Institution: Old Dominion University Research Foundation. PI: Zubair. This project is exploring a digital library framework based on peer-to-peer networks that leverage existing digital library efforts such as the Open Archives Initiative and the Kepler project. The investigators are developing new models for building self-sustainable digital libraries that support evolving communities of interest. A key aspect of this approach is to build a network with nodes clustered by access patterns. Major challenges being addressed include: (a) keeping the network connected in the presence of frequent joining, re-joining, and leaving of participants; (b) maintaining a low technology barrier for building communities with diverse interests; and (c) supporting communities in ways that accommodate their evolving interests.

DUE-0333572. Quality Analysis of Metadata Records in the NSDL Metadata Repository. Institution: Kent State University. PI: Zeng. This project is performing a quality assessment and analysis of metadata records in the NSDL Metadata Repository. The project expects: 1) to classify the evident quality problems and recommend quality assurance solutions; 2) to explicate the relationships between metadata quality and the design principles that underlie the metadata services of the NSDL Metadata Repository; and 3) to provide an empirical basis for an NSDL metadata quality assurance program.

DUE-0333628. Integrating Digital Libraries and Traditional Libraries: A Model for Sustaining NSDL Collections. Institution: University of North Carolina at Wilmington. PI: Ward. This project is investigating the integration of the iLumina digital collection with a traditional research library, thus offering a model for sustaining digital collections that reside at institutions of higher education. Automating the conversion of IMS metadata to MARC data records enables Ilumina resources to become shareable with the OCLC WorldCat database, substantially increasing the accessibility of the digital resources housed in iLumina.

DUE-0333632*. Infusing NSDL in Middle Schools: Obstacles and Strategies. Institution: Eastern Michigan University. PI: Hoffman. Through surveys, experimental studies, focus groups, interviews, and observations of teacher activities in curricular development and classroom practice, this project is establishing a research foundation to successfully develop and deploy new K-12 resources within NSDL and promote high quality teaching that integrates digital resources.

DUE-0333649*. Students Using NSDL (SUN): Science Information Literacy and the NSDL. Institution: Syracuse University. PI: Silverstein. This project is investigating the characteristics of "middle school entry points" to NSDL that are specifically geared to promote science information literacy and, more generally, to use NSDL resources. The work is informing the NSDL community's understanding of how to provide services tailored to the needs of children, and contributing guidance to the integration of future services into the NSDL core.

DUE-0333710. Adding Value to the NSDL by Integrating It into Academic Libraries: A Business Proposition and a Service Enhancement. Institution: University of California, Office of the President, Oakland. PI: Greenstein. This project is conducting market research that evaluates what content and services the NSDL needs to offer to attract and thus support itself, at least in part, with subscriptions paid by academic libraries. A second activity is developing a prototype service that integrates NSDL into the foundational science collections managed by libraries in the University of California system. Because these libraries operate highly diverse technical environments, service deployment and evaluation is taking place in a test bed setting representative of the heterogeneous technical environments that characterize academic libraries in general.

DUE-0333720**. Using Digital Libraries to Build Educational Communities. Institution: Carnegie-Mellon University. PI: Yaron. This project is exploring the use of NSDL as a collaboration space for authors and users to work together iteratively, using web-based tools, classroom experiences and measured learning outcomes, to create effective learning materials that meet educational challenges. Engaging users in the development process itself shortens the traditionally long feedback loop of formative assessment based on a develop-disseminate-assess-modify cycle.


1 All views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent an official NSF policy statement.

2 NSDL program page, <>.


1. "Information Technology: Its Impact on Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." (NSF 98-82), April 18-20, 1996. Available <>.

2. "Developing a Digital National Library for Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education." NRC workshop, August 7-8, 1997. Available <>.

3. "Report of the SMETE Library Workshop." (NSF 99-112), July 21-23, 1998. Available <>.

4. "Serving the Needs of Pre-College Science and Mathematics Education: Impact of a Digital National Library on Teacher Education and Practice." NRC workshop, September 24-25, 1998. Available <>.

5. "Digital Libraries and Education Working Meeting." January 4-6, 1999. Available <>.

6. "Portal to the Future: A Digital Library for Earth System Education." August 8-11, 1999. Available <>.

7. Reports from the DELOS-NSF Working Groups on Digital Libraries from meetings in 2002 and 2003. Available <>.

8. "Preserving Our Digital Heritage: A Plan for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program." Library of Congress, October 2002. Available <>

9. "Wave of the Future." Briefing papers from an NSF workshop. June 15-17, 2003. Available <>.

10. "It's About Time: Research Challenges in Digital Archiving and Long-term Preservation." A joint NSF / Library of Congress workshop. August 2003. Available <>.

11. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: A Progress Report." D-Lib Magazine, October 2000. Available <doi:10.1045/october2000-zia>.

12. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects and a Progress Report." D-Lib Magazine, November 2001. Available <doi:10.1045/november2001-zia>.

13. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects in Fiscal Year 2002." D-Lib Magazine, November 2002. Available <doi:10.1045/november2002-zia>.



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DOI: 10.1045/march2004-zia