ActionBioscience.org

BioQUEST has had the pleasure of collaborating with many interesting projects over its 20+ year history. We are using Partner Profiles to share some of that richness with the undergraduate biology education community. For this profile we spoke with Oksana Hlodan, the Editor in Chief of ActionBioscience.org. The profile interview was conducted via e-mail over several days in February 2009.

In a nutshell, what is Action Bioscience and why should faculty teaching undergraduate biology be aware of it?

ActionBioscience.org is the education web site of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and was created to promote bioscience literacy by examining issues in seven topical areas:

Partial Screenshot from ActionBioscience.org

  • environment – why preserve life’s variety?
  • biodiversity – how fragile is our planet?
  • genomics – what does the genome reveal?
  • biotechnology – how is biotech changing the world?
  • evolution – what is life’s history on Earth?
  • new frontiers in science – why is it the age of biology?
  • bioscience education – what do we know about teaching and learning science?
Articles addressing these issues include links to other websites and resources to enhance bioscience teaching. The peer-reviewed articles offer a convenient way to incorporate current issues and up-to-date discoveries into the classroom. Discussion of the articles can be used to foster student analysis of issues and the application of course concepts to real world situations.When Scientific American chose the web site as one of the five best biology sites in 2003, it stated that,

“This straightforward site … contains annotated papers by the world’s most esteemed scientists, plus classroom materials; each article is even correlated to the U.S. National Science Education Standards so teachers will have no problem working the site’s databases into their curricula.”

Since this award was given, the site’s educational resources have expanded to include Spanish translations of select articles, a blog about educational technology, links to articles in the journal BioScience and the AIBS media library. The web site draws almost 2.5 million page views a year and, according to a 2004 online survey, more than half of the readership consists of educators and students.

Can you identify 1 or 2 specific resources that are popular or that you would recommend to faculty teaching introductory biology?

As a starting point I would recommend:
One of the biggest challenges to learning from topical science issues, such as cloning and climate change, is learning how to deal with the information. Basic scientific concepts provide a framework, but students must also know about the processes—how research is pursued, how conclusions are justified, even how scientists may sometimes make mistakes or be shaped by cultural or political influences. Allchin’s article lists the features of the nature of the science that are most important to know, provides examples of errors made by science and how the nature of science self-corrects these problems, and offers teaching strategies to introduce and reinforce scientific habits of mind. Included are links to activities to illustrate the nature of science, including black box exercises and mock forensic activities. Bull’s article is important because it addresses evolutionary biology, an area of science that is so deeply misunderstood. He provides ample concrete examples in accessible terms of how evolution affects research and impacts our lives. Supplementary teaching activities include preparing a mock HIV court case and tracking a Hantavirus outbreak.
Neither of the above articles are the most popular statistically — Intelligent Design, with views presented by 3 ID proponents countered by the views of 3 evolutionary biologists is the big one. That’s understandable since the general public (half our audience) is very interested in this topic. However, I would certainly not start intro bio with this topic. The other most-read articles are:
As you can see biotechnology and evolution topics are a big draw.

Where do you get your material? Can faculty submit ideas for topics or contribute resources?

Generally, our staff contacts potential authors with an invitation to submit an article or lesson. However, we consider ideas submitted by writers who provide a synopsis and brief outline of the proposed article.All of our articles examine issues in one of the topic areas listed above. All content is peer-reviewed, and many articles are accompanied by lesson plans written by professional educators and keyed to US National Science Education Standards, with vetted links to teaching resources published online elsewhere. Articles range from 1600 to 2400 words, and are written at the level of National Geographic or Discover magazine. We pay an honorarium for published articles. Many of the articles are translated into Spanish by Hispanic scientists. You can learn more about our publishing policies at [http://www.actionbioscience.org/aboutus.html].

Who should folks contact if they have comment, questions or suggestions?

Please feel free to contact:

Oksana Hloden

Oksana Hlodan, Editor in Chief, ohlodan@aibs.org

Sarah Sheehan, Editorial Manager, ssheehan@aibs.org

Editors Note:

Thanks so much to Oksana for sharing information about ActionBioscience. I have always valued the site for the rich content it provides and the fact that the issues focus really grabs students. BioQUEST has had a long relationship with ActionBioscience.org and the American Institute of Biological Sciences and we are looking forward to our continued collaborations.

If you have suggestions for projects that we should profile or other comments add them below or send them via email to bioquest@bleoit.edu.

Invitation to comment:

Have you used resources from ActionBioscience? How did you use them? How might we use issues to drive biological education? Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment.

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