SEA to Direct an Effort for the Strategic Involvement of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) in the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Initiative

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The Science and Engineering Alliance, Inc. (SEA) has been awarded a $275,000 grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to lead an effort to broaden participation in the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) initiative by engaging a coalition of minority serving institutions (MSIs).

A grant awarded by the NSF will support a 24-month project by SEA in which an alliance of MSIs will be selected to participate in developing a process and model to engage the faculty and students at MSIs in the NEON initiative.

The project activities will consist of identifying biological science faculty and students to participate in the project, convene for the participants educational workshops on NEON, development of brochures and other marketing material reflecting the role/contributions of MSIs to the NEON initiative, publication of an article in Bioscience or other appropriate venue demonstrating the success of SEA in broadening participation of MSIs in a major Federal R&D initiative and document lessons learned that evolved from the project that can enhance the participation of MSIs on a national level in large science projects.

“This project fits well with the mission of SEA, noted Dr. Robert Shepard, SEA Executive Director. Broadening the participation of faculty and students at minority serving institutions in major Federal R&D initiatives is moving these institutions in the right direction.” Shepard noted “keeping all participants involved throughout the life of the project will be a challenge, so we will use a web-based collaboration and communication platform and other technology tools to ensure that this exciting project remains on track.”

After the project is evaluated and appropriate modifications are made, SEA will implement the process and model for engaging faculty and students at MSIs in the NEON initiative. The outcome of this project will demonstrate the roles MSIs can play and contributions these institutions can make to large-scale, long-term science initiatives like NEON. The SEA NEON project is expected to create new opportunities for both senior and junior faculty at MSIs.

Dr. Ron Mason, President of Jackson State University and SEA Board Chair said, “This NSF project is a comprehensive initiative that could open other research opportunities for faculty and students at MSIs. The web-based collaboration and communication platform that SEA will use in this project is the kind of technology needed to engage large numbers of research collaborators operating as a single virtual entity. NEON is examining some important research questions and we are pleased that through the efforts of SEA, MSIs will now enter the dialogue.”

SEA is a Washington, D.C. based non-profit organization established in 1990 “to address the challenge of establishing an ethnically diverse technical workforce prepared to compete in today’s global marketplace.” Its unique program is dedicated to ensuring that historically underrepresented talent plays a vital role in the nation’s scientific and engineering future. It is believed that by working together, SEA will accelerate the production of globally competitive American scientists and engineers among people of color. Public and private sector organizations seeking to enhance their intellectual talent pool can look to SEA member institutions to provide quality scientists and first-rate scientific research.

SEA members include: Alabama A&M University (Huntsville, AL); Jackson State University (Jackson, MS); Prairie View A&M University (Prairie View, TX) and Southern University and A&M College (Baton Rouge, LA), and two national laboratories -- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in Livermore, CA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD. SEA serves as a “Unique Resource for the Nation®” that focuses on creating opportunities for access and inclusion of its members more fully in the public and private research and development enterprise.


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Robert L. Shepard, PhD
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