The 2008 AIBS/AAAS Biology Education Summit

May 15 and 16 in Washington DC


This review provides an overview of a multi-society/organization conference designed to support and provoke comprehensive reform of undergraduate biology teaching. For detailed information about presentations and outcomes of this meeting go to the Special Report on the Biology Summit published in the September 2008 issue of BioScience  HTML, PDF (5.5 MB).

The 2008 Biology Education Summit took place May 15 and 16 in Washington DC, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). Gordon Uno, University of Oklahoma, provided an introduction to the summit and outlined the goals: identify current and future problems in biology education, share information about what works, and identify the right people to assist with specific problems and the kinds of professional development that would be most helpful.  The attendees, representing forty-four professional scientific societies and biology education organizations, were asked to consider how all could work cooperatively for the good of all biology students. Dr. Rita Colwell followed with an overview of the state of science education and employment both nationally and globally. 

A variety of sessions made up the remainder of first day of the summit program, giving everyone an opportunity to hear about successful programs and new opportunities for working together.  Judy Scotchmoor, University of California Museum of Paleontology, and Sheri Potter, COPUS Network Project Manager, introduced the participants to the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science and invited the organizations to join the ever growing collaboration with a common goal.  A session on led by Diane Ebert-May, Michigan State University, Carol Brewer, Montana State University, and Charlene D’Avanzo, Hampshire College, provided participants with ideas for linking education research and science research opportunities and insight into methods and challenges facing those who wish to conduct and publish biology education research. Michael Lange, McGraw Hill Publishing, shared insights into the "education publishing transformation" and provided an idea of the role that faculty will be able to play as the transformation occurs. 

The second day began with an overview of two programs which have successfully recruited under-represented minorities into academic programs and careers in the biological sciences: The Meyerhoff Program at UMBC and the SEEDS program at the Ecological Society of America.  The session leaders, Earnestine Baker and Teresa Mourad, shared what works, challenges that are yet to be resolved, and encouraged participants to work together to increase the diversity of the community of biologists. 

Evolution, a topic integral to all of biology, was discussed next.  Jay Labov, National Academy of Sciences, explained the development of the NAS evolution education publications and explained the extensive research that went into the writing of “Science, Evolution, and Creationism,” the new publication from the NAS and the Institute of Medicine released in January 2008.  Gordon Uno, University of Oklahoma, introduced participants to a new initiative called Evolution Across the Curriculum, sponsored by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), and invited all to participate by providing examples or offering to test materials with students.

Christopher D’Elia, University of Florida, and John Moore, Taylor University, next provoked the participants into discussing the benefits and challenges to developing standards for undergraduate biology programs.  The leaders shared data from an article published in BioScience titled: Is There Any Common Curriculum for Undergraduate Biology Majors in the 21st Century? and the National Association of Biology Teacher’s newly released Guidelines for 4-year Undergraduate Biology Programs.  During the final session led by Claire Hemingway, Botanical Society of America, and Sam Donovan, BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium, participants learned from two “best practice” programs about online collaboration options and ways students can access and analyze shared data, providing them an entree into scientific inquiry. 

The program provided time for participants to talk informally with one another, identify possible collaborations, and outline the next steps needed to move biology education reform efforts forward in their own organizations.

Meeting highlights


Link to Presentations Listed Below

Introduction to the Education Summit
Gordon Uno, Department Chair and David Ross Boyd Professor, University of Oklahoma and Chair of the AIBS Education Committee

Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Education in a Changing World
Rita Colwell, Distinguished Professor, Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, and AIBS President

Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science & Year of Science 2009
Sheri Potter, COPUS Network Project Manager, AIBS
Judy Scotchmoor,  COPUS Steering Committee, Assistant Director for Education and Public Programs at the University of California Museum of Paleontology

Biology Education Research
Carol Brewer, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Montana
Diane Ebert-May, Professor of Plant Biology, Michigan State University
Charlene D'Avanzo, Director of the Center for Teaching and Professor of Ecology, School of Natural Sciences, Hampshire College

The Education Publishing Transformation
Michael Lange, Vice President, McGraw-Hill Companies

Getting Under-represented Students into Programs and Getting them Graduated
Earnestine Baker, Meyerhoff Program, University of Maryland – Baltimore County
Teresa Mourad, Director of Education and Diversity Programs, Ecological Society of America

Teaching Evolution: Controversies and Issues
Gordon Uno, Department Chair and David Ross Boyd Professor, University of Oklahoma
Jay Labov, Senior Advisor for Education and Communication, National Academy of Sciences

Why National Standards and Accreditation are Needed for Baccalaureate Degree Programs in Biology
Christopher D'Elia, Professor and Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of South Florida
John M. Moore, Department Chairman and Professor of Biology, Taylor University and NABT president-elect

Best Practices in Undergraduate Biology Education: Promoting Disciplinary Problem Solving with Dynamic E-Science Resources
Sam Donovan, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Pittsburgh and Associate Director of BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium
Claire Hemingway, Education Director, Botanical Society of America.