D-Lib Magazine
November 2001

Volume 7 Number 11

ISSN 1082-9873

The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program

New Projects and a Progress Report


Lee L. Zia1
Division of Undergraduate Education
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230

Red Line



The National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) program2 comprises a set of projects engaged in a collective effort to build a national digital library of high quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educational materials for students and teachers at all levels, in both formal and informal settings. By providing broad access to a rich, reliable, and authoritative collection of interactive learning and teaching resources and associated services in a digital environment, the NSDL will encourage and sustain continual improvements in the quality of STEM education for all students, and serve as a resource for lifelong learning. Though the program is relatively new, its vision and operational framework have been developed over a number of years through various workshops and planning meetings [1-6]. The NSDL program held its first formal funding cycle during fiscal year 2000 (FY00), accepting proposals in four tracks: Core Integration System, Collections, Services, and Targeted Research. Twenty-nine awards were made across these tracks in September 2000. Brief descriptions of each FY00 project appeared in an October 2000 D-Lib Magazine article [7]; full abstracts are available from the Awards Section at <>.

In FY01 the program received one hundred-nine proposals across its four tracks with the number of proposals in the collections, services, and targeted research tracks increasing to one hundred-one from the eighty received in FY00. In September 2001 grants were awarded to support 35 new projects: 1 project in the core integration track, 18 projects in the collections track, 13 in the services track, and 3 in targeted research. Two NSF directorates, the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) are both providing significant co-funding on several projects, illustrating the NSDL program's facilitation of the integration of research and education, an important strategic objective of the NSF. Thus far across both fiscal years of the program fifteen projects have enjoyed this joint support.

Following is a list of the FY01 awards indicating the official NSF award number (each beginning with DUE), the project title, the grantee institution, and the name of the Principal Investigator (PI). A condensed description of the project is also included. Full abstracts are available from the Awards Section at the NSDL program site at <>. (Grants with shared titles are formal collaborations and are grouped together.) The projects are displayed by track and are listed by award number. In addition, six of these projects have explicit relevance and application to K-12 education (indicated with a * below). Six others clearly have potential for application to the K-12 arena (indicated with a ** below).

The NSDL program will have another funding cycle in fiscal year 2002 with the next program solicitation expected to be available in January 2002, and an anticipated deadline for proposals in mid-April 2002.

Core Integration Track

DUE 0127298, 0127308, and 0127520. Collaborative Project: Core Integration of the National SMETE Digital Library. Institutions: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), Cornell University, and Columbia University. PIs: Dave Fulker, Bill Arms, and Kate Wittenberg, respectively. This collaborative project is developing the key organizational and technical infrastructure to support the coordination and management of the digital library's distributed collections and services. Three primary areas of effort are 1) engaging the community, 2) providing technology, and 3) operating core services. Technical components include a flexible portal architecture, a central metadata repository, an open source tool kit for access to rich content, and a database for authentication and user profiles, all emphasizing openness and long-term evolution. Support is also being provided for a very wide array of educational and library services, emphasizing in this initial phase: operation of the primary portal and specialized portals for the NSDL community and the NSDL partners, comprehensive information retrieval services to search for collections or individual items, and an optional service for user profiles and authentication.

Collections Track

DUE 0121390*. Collection and Dissemination of Geoscience Data and Knowledge for the National SMETE Digital Library. Institution: Cornell University - Endowed. PI: Dogan Seber. This project is collecting solid earth science data sets and complementing them with a system of easy-to-use, interactive user tools to provide a dynamic and engaging learning environment for students at all levels ranging from K-12, to undergraduate, graduate, and lifelong learners. In addition, evaluation of the system for use in undergraduate and high school classes is underway.

DUE 0121518. Analytical Sciences Digital Library. Institution: University of Kansas Center for Research Inc. PI: Ted Kuwana. This award is establishing the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL) to classify, catalog, link and reference information or discovery material pertinent to innovations in curricular development and supporting resources in the analytical sciences.

DUE 0121540. A Digital Library of Ceramic Microstructures. Institution: University of Dayton. PI: Mattison Ferber. The goal of this project is to create a digital library of microstructures for functional ceramics with emphasis on materials used for structural, electronic, and thermal applications in undergraduate and graduate science and engineering education.

DUE 0121545. Green's Functions Research and Education Enhancement Network (GREEN). Institution: Kent State University. PI: Gregory Shreve. To facilitate research and education in Green's functions and their applications, this project is developing an education-oriented digital library focusing on Green's functions and their applications to serve undergraduate, graduate and professional education user communities and support Green's functions research and application development in academia and industry.

DUE 0121623. Thematic Real-time Environmental Data Distributed Services (THREDDS). Institution: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. PI: Ben Domenico. The UCAR Unidata program is developing an organizational and software infrastructure, Thematic Real-time Environmental Distributed Data Services (THREDDS), to enable educators and researchers to locate, analyze, visualize, and publish a wide variety of environmental data in both their classrooms and laboratories.

DUE 0121636*. Teachers Domain Collection: Life Sciences, K-12. Institution: WGBH Educational Foundation. PI: Michelle Korf. (w.t.), a digital library collection, is being developed to harness WGBH's extensive broadcast, video, and interactive programming resources in the life sciences to support standards-based teaching and learning from elementary through secondary school.

DUE 0121650*. National Digital Library for Technological Literacy. Institution: International Technology Education Association. PI: Brigitte Valesey. The International Technology Education Association (ITEA) and the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse (ENC) are establishing a broad and deep digital collection of resources that supports the teaching and learning of technological literacy at the K-12 levels.

DUE 0121669. An Active Mathematical Software Collection for Inquiry-based Computational Science and Engineering Education. Institution: University of Tennessee Knoxville. PI: Jack Dongarra. This project is aggregating high-quality numerical software for science and engineering education to support a rich, highly interactive, and inquiry-based learning environment needed to enable learners at various levels to master the use of numerical methods and software libraries.

DUE 0121677*. Gender and Science Digital Library. Institution: Education Development Center. PI: Katherine Hanson. The Gender and Science Digital Library (GSDL), a collaborative project between the Gender and Diversities Institute at Education Development Center, Inc. and the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse (ENC) at Ohio State University, is creating a high-quality, interactive library of K-16 gender and science resources. The GSDL assists educators in promoting and implementing gender-equitable science education in both formal and informal settings.

DUE 0121679**. Computing and Information Technology Interactive Digital Educational Library (CITIDEL). Institution: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. PI: Ed Fox. A consortium of institutions is building the Computing and Information Technology Interactive Digital Education Library (CITIDEL) to serve the computing education community in all its diversity and at all levels. Domain areas of coverage include computer engineering, computer science, information science, information systems, information technology, and software engineering.

DUE 0121684. Bridging the Gap Between Libraries and Data Archives. Institution: University of California-San Diego. PI: Brian Schottlaender. An oceanography collection that provides access to nearly 50 years of shipboard data and integrates historical documents, samples, research publications, and maps from global databases is being developed into a searchable digital library. Modern information technologies are employed to bridge the gap between content-related, but disparate holdings within libraries, data archives, and historical archives.

DUE 0121691. Geotechnical, Rock and Water Resources Library - towards a National Civil Engineering Resources Library. Institution: University of Arizona. PI: Muniram Budhu. This project is promoting widespread access to quality information, resources, and activities in support of learning, teaching, and research in the areas of geotechnical engineering, rock engineering, and water and its use. The effort is envisioned as a component of a larger national civil engineering digital library providing "one-stop" access to resources to meet the learning, teaching and research needs of a wide audience including higher education, professionals, and the community at large.

DUE 0121699. Reciprocal Net -- A Distributed Molecular Database. Institution: Indiana University Bloomington. PI: John Huffman. The Reciprocal Net project is constructing and deploying an extensive distributed and open digital collection of molecular structures. Associated with the collection are software tools for visualizing, interacting with, and rendering printable images of the contents; software for the automated conversion of local database representations into standard formats which can be globally shared; tools and components for constructing educational modules based on the collection; and examples of such modules as the beginning of a public repository for educational materials based on the collection.

DUE 0121703**. Electronic Encyclopedia of Earthquakes. Institution: University of Southern California. PI: Tom Jordan. This project is expanding a pilot version of the web-based Electronic Encyclopedia of Earthquakes (E^3) into a major portal for students, educators, and others seeking information about the science of earthquakes, earthquake engineering, and the practical aspects of hazard characterization and loss reduction.

DUE 0121709. The Digital Archive Network for Anthropology (DANA). Institution: North Dakota State University Fargo. PI: Clark. This award is supporting a network infrastructure to link distributed databases with content of relevance to the domain of anthropology.

DUE 0121724*. Water in the Earth System (WES): An NSDL K-12 Collection Project. Institution: Colorado State University. PI: Edward Geary. A collection of digital K-12 materials and resources built around the theme of "Water in the Earth System (WES)" is being created to enhance the ability of K-12 teachers, students, and parents to easily find, access, and use high-quality, standards-based water resources in their classrooms, at home, and in informal learning environments.

DUE 0121749**. Ethnomathematics Digital Library. Institution: Pacific Resources for Education and Learning. PI: Nancy Lane. This project is identifying, collecting, cataloging, and organizing high quality ethnomathematics curriculum and instructional materials, research articles, and other professional resources of interest to elementary, secondary and tertiary students and teachers, curriculum developers, researchers, and members of institutions of higher education. The library provides users with a premier and readily accessible source of documents and materials describing the mathematical constructs created and used by indigenous cultures around the world.

DUE 0127580. Collaborative Project: Enhancing the Interoperability of Collections and Services. Institution: University of California - Berkeley. PI: Alice Agogino. Faculty at a number of institutions are collaborating to develop and implement several information technological solutions aimed at enhancing the interoperability of both collections and services for the NSDL. A particular emphasis is on exploring the requirements for supporting "tightly federated" collections, featuring close adherence to particular metadata frameworks that enable federated search services to be built. In this collaborative work a team from the University of California - Berkeley is working primarily on collection interoperability while a team from the University of Missouri - Columbia is focusing its efforts on enhancing the interoperability of services (see DUE 0126690).

Services Track

DUE 0121267. The Internet Scout Project's Personalized Content Delivery System. Institution: University of Wisconsin. PI: John Strikwerda. This project is developing a Personalized Content Delivery System (PCDS) to promote and showcase NSDL materials and services, while at the same time collecting and disseminating information about the best new online SMET resources from outside the NSDL. Project objectives include: i) development of a set of "current awareness" services that deliver information about high quality, online SMET resources (from both NSDL projects and outside sources) to NSDL users in a fashion that best suits their needs and ii) extension and improvement of access to NSDL collections and services.

DUE 0121460. A Lightweight, Flexible, and Web-Based Approach to Supporting Workflow in Digital Libraries. Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder. PI: Ken Anderson. This project is using recent advances in event messaging systems, hypermedia, and Web-based technologies (such as XML), to create a lightweight workflow technology to help the stakeholders of a digital library coordinate their shared activities when distributed across different organizations and different times.

DUE 0121525**. Developing Virtual Reference Desk Capabilities for the NSDL. Institution: Syracuse University. PI: Richard Lankes. The goal of this project is to integrate human expertise with virtual reference desk capabilities to support the library. A variety of evaluation methodologies are being used to help develop a better understanding of the digital reference process.

DUE 0121531**. Virtual Telescopes in Education (TIE). Institution: University of Maryland Baltimore County. PI: Susan Hoban. This project is seamlessly integrating telescopes equipped with remote access and control capabilities into one virtual observatory by providing the services required to operate this facility, including a scheduling service, tools for data manipulation, an online proposal review environment, an online "Virtual TIE Student Astrophysical Journal" for publication of results, and access to related educational materials provided by the TIE community. This effort leverages ongoing projects of the collaborators to increase access to astronomy education at the K-12 and undergraduate levels, especially among traditionally under-served communities.

DUE 0121543 and 0121717. Collaborative Project: Standard Connection - Mapping NSDL Educational Objects to Content Standards. Institutions: Syracuse University and University of Washington. PIs: Liz Liddy and Stuart Sutton. In this project a team of investigators is building a middleware tool for the automatic assignment of content standards and benchmarks from the Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks developed by Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) and the Achieve Standards Database to educational resources in the current collections NSDL program and to others harvested from the Internet.

DUE 0121550. Data Discovery Toolkit and Foundry. Institution: New Media Studio. PI: Bruce Caron. This NSDL Services project is developing an initial set of "data discovery" tools to enable students to manipulate real (and real-time if needed) data sets for visualization purposes. In addition, an Internet-based community center for further tool building, the "Foundry", is being created.

DUE 0121575. Increasing Effective Student Use of the Scientific Journal Literature. Institution: University of Tennessee Knoxville. PI: Carol Tenopir. This project is developing features and sample exemplars of interactive learning modules to help undergraduate users recognize, access, and evaluate high quality scientific and technical information such as those contained in the so-called "grey literature" of technical reports and abstracts generated by various government laboratories.

DUE 0121578**. Textual - Geospatial Integration Services for NSDL. Institution: University of California-Santa Barbara. PI: Jim Frew. Operational services are being constructed that make it easy for users of the NSDL to find and integrate semantically related information in heterogeneously represented items. Of particular interest is integrated access to information occurring in collections of texts and collections of maps and images that is semantically related in terms of the geospatial features and regions. Users can find maps or images containing features or places that are referred to implicitly within texts; or they can find texts that implicitly reference features and places contained in maps and images.

DUE 0121596. Decentralized Image Retrieval for Education (DIRECT). Institution: University of Virginia Main Campus. PI: Scott Acton. A peer-to-peer content based image retrieval (CBIR) service is being developed to enable a user to designate a query image so that the library may be searched for images of similar content. Image matching is done not by text metadata but by the color, texture, and shape of the image objects.

DUE 0121656. An OAI-Compliant Federated Physics Digital Library for the NSDL. Institution: Old Dominion University Research Foundation. PI: Kurt Maly. This project is designing and building a cross-archive searching service, based on the Open Archives Initiative, that federates heterogeneous collections having metadata that differ in richness, syntax, and semantics. The initial focus is on federating collections related to physics; however, the techniques and algorithms developed under this proposal will be general enough to work for building a federation service for other communities as well.

DUE 0121692. Digital Library Services for American Indians. Institution: American Indian Higher Education Consortium. PI: Carrie Billy. This award supports a planning conference to engage a group of Tribal Colleges in dialogue and spark project ideas to ensure that the collections and services of the NSDL are both sensitive to the needs of the Native-American population and reflective of that community's contributions to the SMET educational enterprise.

DUE 0121741. Intelligent Collection Services for and about Educators and Students: Logging, Spidering, Analysis and Visualization. Institution: University of Arizona. PI: Hsinchun Chen. The goal of this project is to develop and enhance retrieval, analysis, categorization, and visualization tools to augment the knowledge, skills and abilities that users bring in various degrees to the information search process. In addition, transaction logs from the library are used by teachers to gauge the use of resources and students' paths through the learning experience; such transaction logs can also be valuable to students as a record of their learning experience within a given course or throughout their educational career.

DUE 0126690. Collaborative Project: Enhancing the Interoperability of Collections and Services. Institution: University of Missouri at Columbia. PI: Su-Shing Chen. In this collaborative work a team from the University of California - Berkeley is working primarily on collection interoperability while a team from the University of Missouri - Columbia is focusing its efforts on enhancing the interoperability of services (see DUE 0127580).

Targeted Research Track

DUE 0121527. Design and Evaluation of Maintenance Tools for Distributed Digital Libraries. Institution: Texas Engineering Experiment Station. PI: Frank Shipman. This targeted research project is investigating and developing tools and social protocols to make more feasible the management and maintenance of "author-based" distributed digital library collections, in which material is placed into the library by the author, and librarians (collection managers) organize and annotate it for the library patrons.

DUE 0121635** and 0121743. Collaborative Research: Developing a Learner-Centered Metathesaurus for Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education. Institutions: University of Maryland Baltimore County and University of California Berkeley. PIs: Bill Wood and Alice Agogino. This collaborative project is investigating the creation of a learner-centered metathesaurus based on the analysis of transactions between learners and different types of learning resources. Three modes of interaction are being considered. The first involves data in which many students respond to the same problem (the "Problem of the Week" at the Math Forum). The second interactional mode involves data from transactions between learners and experts (the Math Forum's "Ask Dr. Math" feature). The final interactional mode under study uses collections at a third resource,, where learner usage is more in the traditional library mode of search-retrieve.

DUE 0121769. Developing a National Science Digital Library (NSDL) LibQUAL+ Protocol. Institution: Association of Research Libraries. PI: Duane Webster. Under the auspices of the Association of Research Libraries this project is modifying and repurposing the existing LibQUAL+ protocol for assessing the services provided for the user community of the NSDL program.


1. All views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent an official NSF policy statement.

2. NSDL Program <>.


[1] "Information Technology: Its Impact on Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." (NSF 98-82), April 18-20, 1996. Available at <>.

[2] "Developing a Digital National Library for Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education." NRC workshop, August 7-8, 1997. Available at <>.

[3] "Report of the SMETE Library Workshop." (NSF 99-112), July 21-23, 1998. Available at <>.

[4] "Serving the Needs of Pre-College Science and Mathematics Education: Impact of a Digital National Library on Teacher Education and Practice." NRC workshop, September 24-25, 1998. Available at <>.

[5] "Digital Libraries and Education Working Meeting." January 4-6, 1999. Available at <>.

[6] "Portal to the Future: A Digital Library for Earth System Education." August 8-11, 1999. Available at <>.

[7] Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: A Progress Report." D-Lib Magazine, October 2000. Available at <>.



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DOI: 10.1045/november2001-zia