Science

Understanding the Role of Simulations in K-12 Science and Mathematics Teacher Education

This project will develop and implement a working conference for scholars and practitioners to articulate current use cases and theories of action regarding the use of simulations in PreK-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attendees to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases focused on the design and use of digital and non-digital simulations for building and assessing K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813476
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The recent emergence of updated learning standards in science and mathematics, coupled with increasingly diverse school students across the nation, has highlighted the importance of updating professional learning opportunities for science and mathematics teachers. One promising approach that has emerged is the use of simulations to engage teachers in approximations of practice where the focus is on helping them learn how to engage in ambitious content teaching. In particular, recent technological advances have supported the emergence of new kinds of digital simulations and have brought increased attention to simulations as a tool to enhance teacher learning. This project will develop and implement a working conference for scholars and practitioners to articulate current use cases and theories of action regarding the use of simulations in PreK-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attendees to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases focused on the design and use of digital and non-digital simulations for building and assessing K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies.

While the use of simulations in teacher education is neither new nor limited to digital simulation, emerging technological capabilities have enabled digital simulations to become practical in ways not formerly available. The current literature base, however, is dated and the field lacks clear theoretic models or articulated theories of action regarding what teachers could or should learn via simulations, and the essential components of effective learning trajectories. This working conference will be structured to provide opportunities for attending, teacher educators, researchers, professional development facilitators, policy makers, preservice and inservice teachers, and school district leaders to share their current research, theoretical models, conceptual views, and use cases regarding the role of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The conference will be organized around four major goals, including: (1) Define how simulations (digital and non-digital) are conceptualized, operationalized, and utilized in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education; (2) Document and determine the challenges and affordances of the varied contexts, audiences, and purposes for which simulations are used in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education and the variety of investigation methods and research questions employed to investigate the use of simulations in these settings; (3) Make explicit the theories of action and conceptual views undergirding the various simulation models being used in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education; and (4) Determine implications of the current research and development work in this space and establish an agenda for studying the use of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education. The project will produce a white paper that presents the research and development agenda developed by the working conference, describes a series of use cases describing current and emergent practice, and identifies promising directions for future research and development in this area. Conference outcomes are expected to advance understanding of the varied ways in which digital and non-digital simulations can be used to foster and assess K-12 science and mathematics teacher competencies and initiate a research and development agenda for examining the role of simulations in K-12 science and mathematics teacher education.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Understanding the Role of Simulations in Teacher Preparation

Presenter(s): Lisa Dieker, Angelica Fulchini Scruggs, Heather Howell, Michael Hynes, & Jamie Mikeska


Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Teaching in Rural Areas Using Cultural Knowledge Systems

This project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students.

Award Number: 
1812888
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

The Cultural Connections Process Model (CCPM) will formalize, implement, and test a process model for community-engaged educational resource development for Indigenous populations. The project will collaborate with Indigenous communities to create educational resources serving Inupiaq middle school students and their teachers. Research activities take place in Northwest Alaska. Senior personnel will travel to rural communities to collaborate with and support participants. The visits demonstrate University of Alaska Fairbanks's commitment to support pathways toward STEM careers, community engagement in research, science teacher recruitment and preparation, and STEM career awareness for Indigenous and rural pre-college students. Pre-service teachers who access to the resources and findings from this project will be better prepared to teach STEM to Native students and other minorities and may be more willing to continue careers as science educators teaching in settings with Indigenous students. The project will contribute to a greater understanding of effective natural science teaching and science career recruitment of minority students. The project's participants and the pre-college students they teach will be part of the pipeline into science careers for underrepresented Native students in Arctic communities. The project will build on partnerships outside of Alaska serving other Indigenous populations and will expand outreach associated with NSF's polar science investments.

CCPM will build on cultural knowledge systems and NSF polar research investments to address science themes relevant to Inupiat people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. An Inupiaq scholar will conduct project research and guide collaboration between Indigenous participants and science researchers using the Inupiaq research methodology known as Katimarugut (meaning "we are meeting"). The project research and development will engage 450 students in grades 6-8 and serves 450 students (92% Indigenous) and 11 teachers in the remote Arctic. There are two broad research hypotheses. The first is that the project will build knowledge concerning STEM research practices by accessing STEM understandings and methodologies embedded in Indigenous knowledge systems; engaging Indigenous communities in project development of curricular resources; and bringing Arctic science research aligned with Indigenous priorities into underserved classrooms. The second is that classroom implementation of resources developed using the CCPM will improve student attitudes toward and engagement with STEM and increase their understandings of place-based science concepts. Findings from development and testing will form the basis for further development, broader implementation and deeper research to inform policy and practice on STEM education for underrepresented minorities and on rural education.

Design and Development of a K-12 STEM Observation Protocol (Collaborative Research: Roehrig)

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

Award Number: 
1813342
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will be developed for use in K-12 STEM settings. While the importance of integrated STEM education is established, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction. This issue is confounded by the lack of observation protocols sensitive to integrated STEM teaching and learning to inform research to the effectiveness of new models and strategies. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments. The STEM-OP will be designed to be used effectively by multiple stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Researchers will benefit from having the STEM-OP available for them to carry out research and continue to improve STEM education in a variety of ways. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments.  The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available online platform. In brief, the STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

The primary product of this project is the new observation protocol called STEM-OP for K-12 classrooms implementing integrated STEM lessons. The project will use over 500 integrated STEM classroom videos to design the STEM-OP. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the STEM-OP will be a valid and reliable instrument for use in a variety of educational contexts. The research will explore the different ways that elementary, middle, and high school science teachers enact integrated STEM instruction. This study will shed light on the nature of STEM instruction in each of these grade bands and provide information building towards an understanding of learning progressions for engineering practices across grade bands. Research exploring how the nature of STEM integration changes from day to day over the course of a unit will provide critical information about the different sequencing and trajectories of STEM units. Examining how integrated STEM instruction unfolds over a full unit of instruction will inform the understanding of integrated STEM practices at both micro- and macro- levels of analysis. The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available, which will be distributed via a publicly available, online platform that includes a training manual and classroom video for practice scoring.

Design and Development of a K-12 STEM Observation Protocol (Collaborative Research: Dare)

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1854801
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will be developed for use in K-12 STEM settings. While the importance of integrated STEM education is established, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction. This issue is confounded by the lack of observation protocols sensitive to integrated STEM teaching and learning to inform research to the effectiveness of new models and strategies. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments. The STEM-OP will be designed to be used effectively by multiple stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Researchers will benefit from having the STEM-OP available for them to carry out research and continue to improve STEM education in a variety of ways. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments.  The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available online platform. In brief, the STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

The primary product of this project is the new observation protocol called STEM-OP for K-12 classrooms implementing integrated STEM lessons. The project will use over 500 integrated STEM classroom videos to design the STEM-OP. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the STEM-OP will be a valid and reliable instrument for use in a variety of educational contexts. The research will explore the different ways that elementary, middle, and high school science teachers enact integrated STEM instruction. This study will shed light on the nature of STEM instruction in each of these grade bands and provide information building towards an understanding of learning progressions for engineering practices across grade bands. Research exploring how the nature of STEM integration changes from day to day over the course of a unit will provide critical information about the different sequencing and trajectories of STEM units. Examining how integrated STEM instruction unfolds over a full unit of instruction will inform the understanding of integrated STEM practices at both micro- and macro- levels of analysis. The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available, which will be distributed via a publicly available, online platform that includes a training manual and classroom video for practice scoring.

Design and Development of a K-12 STEM Observation Protocol (Collaborative Research: Ring-Whalen)

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812794
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project will design and develop a new K-12 classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction (STEM-OP). The STEM-OP will be developed for use in K-12 STEM settings. While the importance of integrated STEM education is established, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction. This issue is confounded by the lack of observation protocols sensitive to integrated STEM teaching and learning to inform research to the effectiveness of new models and strategies. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments. The STEM-OP will be designed to be used effectively by multiple stakeholders in a variety of contexts. Researchers will benefit from having the STEM-OP available for them to carry out research and continue to improve STEM education in a variety of ways. Existing instruments were not developed for use in integrated STEM learning environments.  The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available online platform. In brief, the STEM-OP will inform the instruction of integrated STEM in many contexts with the goal of improving integrated STEM education.

The primary product of this project is the new observation protocol called STEM-OP for K-12 classrooms implementing integrated STEM lessons. The project will use over 500 integrated STEM classroom videos to design the STEM-OP. Using exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, the STEM-OP will be a valid and reliable instrument for use in a variety of educational contexts. The research will explore the different ways that elementary, middle, and high school science teachers enact integrated STEM instruction. This study will shed light on the nature of STEM instruction in each of these grade bands and provide information building towards an understanding of learning progressions for engineering practices across grade bands. Research exploring how the nature of STEM integration changes from day to day over the course of a unit will provide critical information about the different sequencing and trajectories of STEM units. Examining how integrated STEM instruction unfolds over a full unit of instruction will inform the understanding of integrated STEM practices at both micro- and macro- levels of analysis. The STEM-OP and associated training materials will be available for use by other education stakeholders, such as K-12 teachers and district administrators, through a publicly available, which will be distributed via a publicly available, online platform that includes a training manual and classroom video for practice scoring.

Exploring the Relationship Between High School Mathematics and Bioscience, Standardized Testing and College Performance in Biotechnology-Related Fields

This project will focus on an early stage exploratory study of an idea that will reveal ways to develop more effective interventions to address student retention in bioscience and bioengineering pipelines. The study will attempt to initiate a new line of research in search of factors associated with bioscience and bioengineering education as a novel approach for uncovering factors that may negatively influence student participation in these fields.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1834733
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

This project will focus on an early stage exploratory study of an idea that will reveal ways to develop more effective interventions to address student retention in bioscience and bioengineering pipelines. As such, this study will help meet future workforce needs by taking a radical approach and looking beyond mathematics as the key major factor that determines student participation in STEM fields. To better understand what these factors might be, this study will examine high school transcripts from two local high schools. It will also review records of 350 undergraduate students who have been enrolled, are currently enrolled, have graduated, switched to another non-STEM field at the same institution, or left undergraduate programs in biotechnology-related fields. Data sources will include information on all mathematics, bioscience, biotechnology-related courses taken in high school and in college; college entrance test scores, and students' performance in bioengineering at the undergraduate level. This study will attempt to initiate a new line of research in search of factors associated with bioscience and bioengineering education as a novel approach for uncovering factors that may negatively influence student participation in these fields.

An interdisciplinary approach will be used to mine and analyze student data at the intersection of mathematics, biosciences, engineering, and technology. Although it is unclear if this approach will generate any new insights potentially beneficial to society, knowing whether the idea works or not will be a valuable contribution to the field. Additionally, this approach will not only be relevant to biosciences and bioengineering, but also important to national efforts, and will contribute to NSF's Big Idea on Harnessing the Data Revolution. However, attempting to merge data sets from multiple sources is risky since it may not reveal any meaningful information useful to addressing student retention. Such risks may be further compounded by the limited focus of the study on mostly content driven factors, a wide variation of pathways and classes, availability of courses, personal variation of student development, and motivation and interest in particular STEM subjects. Due to the complexity of this undertaking and the focus largely on student performance and success in these fields, the risk is high. These risks notwithstanding, outcomes from this study could potentially identify factors, other than mathematics, that might contribute to current attrition rates. Thus, this study will inform the development of more effective models of intervention, help prioritize broadening participation efforts, and promote further research.

Promoting Engineering Problem Framing Skill-Development in High School Science and Engineering Courses

This project will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812823
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Full Description: 

This collaborative project involving Ohio Northern University, Ohio State University, and Olathe Northwest High School will develop curricular activities and assessment guidance for K-12 science and engineering educators who seek to incorporate engineering design content into their biology, chemistry, and physics classes. This work is important because students' limited exposure to engineering activities can negatively impact their decisions to enroll in STEM courses and to pursue engineering careers. Further, many states are adopting or considering adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of classroom standards which integrate engineering content into traditional science disciplines. While high school teachers under these standards are expected to incorporate the cross-cutting engineering content into their courses, they generally receive little high-quality support for doing so. If successful, the project could provide a powerful model of how to support busy and resource-constrained STEM teachers, and create broader student interest in STEM careers.

Drawing from best practices on instructional design, the project's main objectives are to: (1) design, field-test, and evaluate the impact of 12 NGSS-aligned, engineering problem-framing design activities on students enrolled in grades 9-12 science courses and (2) design and conduct high-quality, sustained professional development that fosters participating high school science teachers' ability to deploy the NGSS concepts-linked activities. Data sources include student design artifacts, video of classroom instruction, and surveys assessing student and teacher attitudes toward engineering, student design self-efficacy and teacher self-efficacy for teaching engineering content. These data will be analyzed to determine what teachers learned from the professional development activities, how those activities informed their teaching and in turn, how students' engagement with the engineering activities relates to their engineering design skills and attitudes. In terms of intellectual merit, the project aims to develop a learning progression of students' engineering design problem-framing skills by characterizing any observed change in students' design work and attitudes over time.

Development and Validation of a Mobile, Web-based Coaching Tool to Improve PreK Classroom Practices to Enhance Learning

This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project will develop a new practitioner-friendly version of the Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback (CQ-REF) tool for instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813008
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

Children from low-income families often enter kindergarten academically behind their more economically affluent peers. Advancing pre-kindergarten (pre-K) teachers' ability to provide all students with high-quality early math learning experiences has potential to minimize this gap in school readiness. This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies, such as spending more time on math content and listening to children during instructional activities, that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project takes a novel approach--a mobile website that helps instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers. The Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback tool (CQ-REF) will guide coaches' ability to observe specific teacher practices in their classrooms and then provide feedback to help teachers evaluate their practices and set goals for improvement.  Practically, the CQ-REF addresses the need for accessible, real-time feedback on high quality pre-K classroom teaching.

This project focuses on developing a new practitioner-friendly version of the CQ-REF, originally designed as a research tool for evaluating the quality of classroom teaching, for use by coaches and teachers. At the beginning of the four-year project, the team will collect examples of high-quality classroom teaching and coaching strategies. These will be used to create a library of video and other materials that teachers and coaches can use to establish a shared definition of what effective pre-K teaching looks like. In year three of the project, the team will pilot the CQ-REF with a diverse range of pre-K teachers and their coaches to determine the tool's usability and relevance. In this validation study coaches will be randomly assigned to either use the CQ-REF tool or coach in their usual manner. After one year, the CQ-REF's impact on teacher practices and student outcomes will be assessed. Outcomes of interest include teacher and student classroom behavior and children's executive function and ability in mathematics, literacy and science. Concurrently, an external evaluation team will examine how the coaching is being conducted and used, and participants' impressions of the coaching process. In the fourth and final year, the team will focus on refining the tool based on results from prior work and on disseminating the findings to research and practitioner audiences.

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: Ellis)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814033
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: McGinnis-Cavanaugh)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813572
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Collaborative for Educational Services (CES)
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.


Project Videos

2019 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Transforming Engineering Education for Middle School (TEEMS)

Presenter(s): Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh, Sonia Ellis, & Crystal Ford


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