The NSF SMETE-Lib Study:
The SMET-Lib Study is an initiative of the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education to examine the potential impact of digital libraries on science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education (SMETE), with emphasis at the undergraduate level. Depending upon the outcome, the study may lead to the implementation of digital library services for undergraduate education.
The NSF is already a substantial supporter of digital libraries. The foundation funds digital libraries research through the NSF/DARPA/NASA Digital Libraries Initiative and related activities. Long standing projects to which the foundation contributes include the Physics E-Print Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratories, the data archives of the International Consortium of Political Sciences at the University of Michigan, and the NetLib repository of mathematical software at the University of Tennessee. Numerous individual NSF-funded projects maintain excellent web sites, including several that distribute materials that are targeted to undergraduate education. These separate activities play an important role in scientific education and research. The SMETE-Lib Study is asking the question what impact could be achieved from a large-scale effort with a focus on undergraduate education.
The background to the SMETE-Lib Study is an NSF report in 1996 on the status of undergraduate education. The report urged the foundation to sponsor the development of "a national electronic library for validating and disseminating successful educational practices."
Following this report, the NSF asked the National Research Council to undertake a study that would explore the feasibility of establishing a digital National Library for undergraduate science, mathematics, and technology education, and examine various challenges that would have to be overcome in order to build a library that is both educationally innovative and cost effective. The National Research Council held a workshop on August 7-8, 1997 and published its report at the end of the year. The report is optimistic about the feasibility of building useable digital libraries, but urged further examination of what kinds of libraries would best support undergraduate education.
In July 1998, the NSF is holding a workshop to focus on issues related to content development and faculty use of digital libraries for undergraduate science education.
The SMETE-Lib web pages and mailing list are hosted by D-Lib with support from the NSF's Division of Undergraduate Education.