Advancing the Long-Term Potential of Fundamental STEM Education Research: The NSF ECR Hub


Little engineers

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National leaders have urgently called for more workers with educational training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields to address the needs of an economy that increasingly relies on technology innovation. Unfortunately, the current U.S. STEM education system fails to meet the needs of even current workforce demands. Systemic barriers and cultural biases further contribute to these challenges by limiting who pursues STEM education and employment. 

Solving these pressing national problems requires an ecosystem of complementary, distinct types of educational and workforce research that mutually inform each other. One important type of such research is fundamental research, sometimes also called basic science. This type of research stems from curiosity-driven and use-inspired questions such as: How do students learn algebra? What barriers and biases do certain groups of people face in STEM training? What new types of emerging technological skills are STEM employers looking for? Fundamental research does not necessarily involve developing and testing specific interventions, though it is critical in informing more applied types of research. 

I am particularly excited about working closely with NSF and our university partners to collaboratively define and execute a vision for how the ECR Hub can serve and support diverse research communities. These partners’ collective expertise and connections, along with AIR’s, will be critical to the Hub’s success.

- David Miller, ECR Hub Principal Investigator

This five-year resource center is a partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to extend the reach of existing NSF investments and build career opportunities related to fundamental STEM education research. Specifically, the STEM Education (EDU) Core Research (ECR) Hub will support NSF’s ECR program, which funds curiosity-driven and use-inspired fundamental STEM education research. The ECR program also supports projects that build individuals’ capacity to carry out high-quality STEM education research and broaden the pool of scholars who can conduct such research. 

The ECR Hub will:

  • Identify the needs of a diverse ECR grantee community through interviews and surveys of key stakeholders such as current and prospective ECR grantees.
  • Catalogue and synthesize past and current ECR research through building interactive data tools and topic-specific evidence snapshots for finding specific kinds of ECR projects and learning about their results.
  • Strengthen research networks and information sharing for more than 400 current grantees through organizing grantee meetings and workshops, creating a centralized website, and sharing information and engaging the community via social media.
  • Conduct outreach and broaden participation of prospective grantees through proactive efforts to reach scholars and institutions underrepresented in the current ECR portfolio through targeted workshops, webinars, and communities of practice.
  • Consolidate and disseminate resources from existing ECR training institutes by creating an efficient, one-stop, location on the ECR Hub website for users to access methodological training content (e.g., slides, videos, upcoming events).
  • Build collaborations with other NSF STEM education resource hubs to advance long-term ECR program goals, such as realizing the potential of fundamental research to inform the next phases of more applied research.

AIR will lead the ECR Hub in close partnership with NSF and three other organizations:


  • Georgia State University will be the key driver for curating resources from existing ECR training institutes, as well as ensuring those training resources reach diverse current and prospective ECR grantees.
  • Morgan State University will lead outreach efforts for broadening the participation of prospective grantees, especially those underrepresented in the current portfolio such as minority-serving institutions.
  • Northwestern University will be key intellectual leaders for how ECR can guide investments in other NSF programs as well as review materials for methods resource curation efforts.


In addition, Partner to Improve will serve as the external evaluator, and an institutionally diverse and multidisciplinary advisory board will help guide the ECR Hub goals and activities.