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Physics Education Research Funding

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Physics Education Research Funding Census Charles Henderson*, Ramón Barthelemy*, Noah Finkelstein†, Jose Mestre¥ *Department of Physics and Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, USA †Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA ¥Departments of Physics and Educational Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign, IL 61820, USA Abstract. It is important for a research community, such as Physics Education Research (PER), to understand how much funding it receives and where this funding comes from. During spring 2011, US-based members of the PER community were asked to respond to a web survey to identify funding that supports their research. Results indicate that the total funding base for PER from 2006-2010 (inclusive) is at least 262 grants worth a total of $72.5M. Most (75%) of the funding for PER comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and most of the NSF funding is through the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources. Very little PER work is funded through the Education and Interdisciplinary Research (EIR) Program that is housed within the NSF Division of Physics, nor is there significant funding from the US Department of Education. Although funding supports work at all levels of physics instruction, by far the largest amount of funding goes to support work at the introductory undergraduate level. Keywords: physics education research, funding PACS: 01.40.-d INTRODUCTION Over the last few decades, Physics Education Research (PER) in the United States has grown from efforts conducted by relatively isolated groups and individuals into a thriving community of scholars and a recognized area of scholarship in the broader physics community. There are many indicators of the success of PER as a field of scholarly research. For example, the annual Physics Education Research Conference attracts over 200 attendees each year. The community now boasts a dues-paying membership (Physics Education Research Topical Group of the American Association of Physics Teachers) of approximately 650 individuals, and there are more than 100 institutions of higher education with researchers in physics education. Other evidence of the success of PER include: recognition by the American Physical Society [1], dedicated publication venues [2-4], legislation [5], and the National Academies, which currently has two committee studies in which PER plays a major role [6-7]. One of the key mechanisms for documenting and building the PER community is understanding the state, scale, and sources of funding that support the community of scholars that comprise this community. Funding represents a public recognition of the value of the enterprise; funding also suggests areas of growth, and patterns of research and practices that are successful within the community. Noting which agencies, which funding lines within those agencies, and what sorts of research are funded helps us understand the opportunities and constraints within our community – these data also help us identify where we might advocate for future funding. This paper describes the results of a web survey that sought to document the funding that supports US-based PER research. METHODOLOGY The target population for the web survey was US-based PER researchers who were active during the years 2006-2010 (inclusive) and might have funding. Several methods were used to collect names of likely members of the target population. We started with the membership list of the AAPT PER Topical Group (PERTG). From this list we removed individuals who were not US-based or who were high school teachers. We then added US-based authors from the last five years of publications in: 1) American Journal of Physics, Physics Education Research Section [2], 2) Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research [3], and 3) Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference [4]. The survey invitation was sent to all 508 people identified. After three reminders to non-respondents, 318 responses were received – a 63% response rate. Of these, 79 (25%) indicated that they did not conduct PER research during the target period and are not included in the analysis.In addition to the grants identified from the web survey, separate searches were conducted of the NSF grants database. Specific non-respondents who were identified by the authors as likely to have grants were searched for by name. Key word searches were conducted using „physics‟ and „education‟. Resulting „hits‟ from both types of searches were then judged as to whether they represented PER. Grant totals were adjusted to account for grants that extended outside of the 2006-2010 target range and grants that included both PER and non-PER activities. Duplicated grants were removed from the database. RESULTS Demographics of PER Researchers The demographics of survey respondents provide information about the characteristics of PER researchers. The results presented in this section are based on responses of the 237 respondents who self-reported to have conducted PER in the US between 2006 and 2010. Figure 1 shows that approximately 55% of self-identified PER researchers have one or more grants. Figure 2 shows that 43% of the respondents have a PhD in a traditional area of physics, while another 33% have a PhD in PER. Figure 3 shows that 41% of respondents work at an institution offering a Physics PhD. Most (70%) of respondents have their appointment in a Physics Department with many fewer holding appointments in education-related departments (10%) or joint appointments (8%). Funding Sources and Amounts The web survey identified 186 grants worth a total of $46.1M (Table 1). Of these, 112 grants worth a total of $34.5M were from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The searches of the NSF database identified an additional 46 grants worth a total of $19.3M. Assuming that the web survey failed to capture the same proportion of funding from non-NSF sources as from NSF sources, there would be an additional 30 non-NSF grants worth a total of $7.2M.


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