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"TRIAD" Seeks Educational Gender Equity June 3, 1998

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION June 3, 1998 For more information on these science news and feature story tips, please contact the public information officer at the end of each item at (703) 306-1070. Editor: Cheryl Dybas "TRIAD" SEEKS EDUCATIONAL GENDER EQUITY A National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project in California is having an impact on the performance of middle school-aged girls in science courses within the San Francisco Unified School district. Leaders of the Women's Triad Project also say they are developing a common language between research scientists and teachers to create a better common ground between the two cultures, aimed at improving teaching and mentoring of women. "We found that scientists and teachers have different connotations of certain terms," says Liesl Chatman, executive director of the Science and Health Education Partnership at the University of California in San Francisco, where Triad was developed. "For a scientist, a model is a flexible representation of how something might work -- it can be modified as more is learned. For a teacher, a model often refers to something that is already exemplary. A scientist views being critical as essential to the process of scientific investigation -- to pick apart what doesn't work. To a teacher, being critical often runs counter to creating a nurturing learning environment for young people. It is the balance of criticism and nurturing that scientists and teachers can learn from each other." Chatman says Triad has helped young women show more interest in science, improving their confidence by more risk-taking and display more verbal confidence and more self-assuredness in their defense of positions on projects. The next step, says Chatman, is to work with teachers to examine their own practices, to set real goals and to create an environment in the classroom for gender equality. [Lee Herring] FEDERAL OBLIGATIONS FOR ACADEMIC SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING DECLINE IN 1996 In 1996, federal obligations for academic science and engineering (S&E) revealed a yearly decline for only the fourth time since 1963, the year NSF first began surveying this form of government investment in S&E. The information is based on the most recent data from NSF's annual Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges and Nonprofit Institutions, summarized in a new Data Brief by NSF's Division of Science Resources Studies. The government's overall $14.3 billion dollars obligated for fiscal 1996 in academic S&E activities was $23 million lower than

the previous year, a decline of two-tenths of one percent. Adjusted for inflation, the 1996 obligations were two percent lower than in 1995. Of the six major categories in federal obligations toward academic science and engineering, only two increased for 1996 in current dollars, a modest 1.3 percent in research and development, and just over one percent in "other S&E," which includes a range of miscellaneous activities. The survey data was compiled from 18 federal agencies that provide nearly all of the academic S&E support to universities, colleges and nonprofit institutions. [Bill Noxon] For the entire data brief, see: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/databrf/db.htm ASTROPHYSICS IN ANTARCTICA EXPLORED AT AAS MEETING Antarctica's unique potential for astrophysics will be explored in an all-day session at the American Astronomical Society meeting June 10 in San Diego. Conditions at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station particularly the extremely cold, dry, and highly stable atmosphere - are exceptional for observations from millimeter to infrared wavelenghts. Also, the thick ice sheet is being used for high-energy astrophysical particle detector telescopes. Over the past few years, the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica has done extensive site testing, operated an observatory through the long winter and conducted cutting-edge astronomical observations. The session in San Siego seeks to draw ideas from the astronomical community in order to plan future observing facilities at the South Pole. [Lynn Simarski] For more information on the South Pole and the workshop, see: http://astro.uchicago.edu/cara/ -NSF-