Making STEM education research more accessible
The world of STEM education research is about to get its own powerful search engine to assist researchers and funders in finding and analyzing information.
A team of researchers from Purdue University and three other institutions — including Mihaela Vorvoreanu, assistant professor of computer graphics technology in Purdue’s College of Technology — has received a $3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to create the web resource, called Deep Insights Anytime, Anywhere (DIA2).
“It is so much more than search – it analyzes information and creates graphs and visualizations that provide deep insights,” said Vorvoreanu. “We have all this information sitting in PDFs of journal articles and funded proposals. DIA2 taps into this dark data to provide insights about networks of scholarly collaboration and funding trends. With DIA2, you can understand a new topic or field in seconds. If you were to dig through all this information manually, it would take weeks to get the same insights.”
The information is important to STEM researchers and educators. It helps them identify other relevant work quickly and get a network graph of the authors working on the same topics. It is also important to NSF program officers who can visualize funding trends, help identify potential conflicts of interest when seeking third-party input on grant proposals and understand the impact of NSF investments. Ultimately, DIA2 will be used to inform decision-making.
Vorvoreanu, as a co-principal investigator, will conduct research on the needs of users to ensure the final product is easily accessible and user-friendly.
“We need to understand our user groups, their professional goals and needs, so DIA2 can help them do their work better, faster,” she said. “We aim for an intuitive interface that will require no manuals, no training. It takes a lot of research to create intuitive products.” She will also oversee the design of the site as well as the collection of research data regarding the site’s usability.
Vorvoreanu and her fellow researchers on DIA2 worked on a similar project for engineering education in 2009. The final product, iKneer.org, serves as a prototype for the new project, but DIA2 will be much bigger in scope.