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Summer 2005 Vol. 5 No. 2



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BRIEF TAKES



New Fund Honors Alberts' Commitment to Science Education

Bruce Alberts arrived at the National Academy of Sciences in 1993 intending to become a president devoted to education reform. His many efforts on behalf of science education emphasize "science as inquiry," an approach that aims to help students acquire a deep and useful understanding of the scientific method -- not just the rote knowledge currently stressed in many U.S. schools. Making this shift, Alberts believes, will require the strong leadership of the scientific community.

To continue his work and to honor his passion for improving science education, the Academies have established the Bruce Alberts Fund for Science Education. The fund will support a variety of programs, including an effort to expand the concept of the Teacher Advisory Council, a group started by Alberts in 2002 to give expert science and math teachers a voice in national education policy. The Academies are now supporting the formation of similar advisory groups at the state level. Also planned is an initiative to build partnerships between the science and business communities to encourage the education system to produce a scientifically literate and capable work force. And the fund will support wider dissemination of the Academies' evidence-based studies on how students learn; the goal is to get these reports into the hands of more people who can put the recommendations into practice -- such as federal and state policy-makers and education agencies, business leaders, principals, and classroom teachers themselves.

For more information about the fund, contact Merrill Meadow, NAS development director, at 202-334-2431, or visit <national-academies.org/albertsfund>.   -- Sara Frueh


Partner Academies Chosen to Buoy
African Science

The U.S. National Academies selected in February the science academies of Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa as initial focal points for a program to strengthen African scientists' ability to inform government policy-making and public discourse with independent, evidence-based advice. Supported by a $20 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the initiative will be carried out in Africa over the next decade, focusing on efforts to improve public health.

The project will help the three academies -- which have limited experience in providing policy guidance -- engage broader communities of African scientists, medical and health care professionals, and engineers in policy issues. The U.S. National Academies will steer efforts early on, in part by conducting a series of joint activities. But the aim is to create the capacity in each nation for efforts to thrive under the leadership and support of the African academies themselves. Some of the early activities will center on helping the three academies develop the skills to plan and execute scientific studies, organize major conferences, raise and manage funds, create and implement administrative procedures, and build lasting relationships with government officials and other stakeholders in their countries.

The U.S. National Academies also awarded strategic planning grants to the science academies of Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, and Kenya. Additionally, the initiative will support various meetings to promote collaboration and joint learning among sub-Saharan Africa's science academies. Canada's International Development Research Centre will support the initiative and provide financial assistance for the participation of a fourth initial partner in Africa.   -- Vanee Vines


Science Museum Celebrates First Anniversary

Photo courtesy Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of SciencesUnder a striped circus tent decorated with metallic red, black, and silver balloons, hundreds of people gathered to learn about science and participate in festivities marking the first anniversary of the Marian Koshland Science Museum. The festive atmosphere continued inside the museum with raffle tickets, popcorn, and prizes. Nearly 600 people stopped by for the special event.

At one popular station, visitors were able to extract DNA from their own cheek cells and take home the sample in a necklace vial for safekeeping. And a microscopic power tool station allowed visitors the opportunity to use a small hand-held digital microscope to explore tiny objects including computer chips.

"Today's celebration is a thank you to the community for its support of our museum," said Patrice Legro, director of the museum.

The museum is part of the public outreach of the National Academies. Its exhibits are designed to make National Academies reports more accessible to the public -- through interactive displays and cutting-edge technology -- and to increase public understanding of the nature and value of science.

The current exhibits at the museum focus on global warming and DNA, allowing visitors to glimpse the frontiers of today's scientific research; witness the effects of global warming; and explore how DNA analysis can catch criminals and stop epidemics. In 2007, one of the exhibits will travel to partner museums across the country. A new exhibit on infectious disease is now under development.
  -- Maureen O'Leary



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Copyright 2005 by the National Academy of Sciences