Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


FEIG, Anthony D., Department of Geography, Central Michigan University, CMU DOW 278, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859, CAULKINS, Joshua L., Department of Geosciences, University of Rhode Island, 9 Greenhouse Road, Tyler Hall, Kingston, RI 02881, GRAY, Kyle, Earth Sciences, University of Northern Iowa, Latham Hall, Room 114, Cedar Falls, IA 50614 and ARTHURS, Leilani, Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 330 Bessey Hall, P.O. Box 880340, Lincoln, NE 68588,

In April 2013 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the report “Widespread distribution and unexpected variation among science faculty with education specialties (SFES) across the U.S.” Notable findings include: 1) SFES are more likely to be non-tenure track at PhD-level institutions; 2) SFES at masters-level institutions were more likely to have formal training in science education than their peers at PhD/undergraduate institutions; 3) SFES at PhD institutions spend more time on teaching than research; and 4) SFES at PhD institutions were more successful at obtaining external funding.

One striking point made by the study’s authors is that among participants, no statistical relationship exists between science education training and success in obtaining science education funding. Instead, the controls for funding success appear to be appointment at a (prestigious) PhD institution, and previous success in obtaining non-education science funding. The study suggests that most science education funding may not be landing in settings that are most poised to support or transform science education. Further training for SFES was recommended to narrow the gap between training levels and funding successes.

The PNAS study was not focused wholly on geoscience education, and has inherent limitations. Nevertheless, we argue that it is in our collective interest to engage this study as a catalyst for a broad, strategic discussion on the future of geoscience education. We present the following points for consideration by our community:

  1. It is time for geoscience educators to publicly define what the geoscience education discipline is and is for: the entire spectrum of we do, what we expect our cumulative impact to be, both within the geosciences and beyond.
  2. While external, federal funding is a key currency of the academic enterprise, it is misguided and shortsighted to count it as the only, or even the primary, currency. Our impacts are measurable by multiple means, such as new knowledge gained, reforms enacted, etc. It is imperative for us to define those metrics for those outside our community.
  3. A discipline-wide discussion of recommendations for training geoscience educators must take place. A critical mass of geoscience educators now exists to lead that discussion.