Research news and notes from the National Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Education
Digital Library (NSDL) Program [Back Issues]

The Whiteboard Report
March 2007, Issue #110



NEW NSDL 2006 Annual Report
The National Science Digital Library's 2006 Annual Report was released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Conference earlier this month. The report highlights the multiple roles that NSDL plays in support of STEM education--serving as resource repository, provider of services and tools, education and outreach, locus of digital library research, and as a scaffold for collaboration. Focused on an expanding network of partners, projects and initiatives, the report looks to a future NSDL that leverages strong NSDL 2.0 technical and social components to "create a critical mass of value" as part of the nation's educational cyberinfrastructure.

Download a copy of the 2006 Annual Report here:,
or request single or multiple copies of the 2006 Annual Report by contacting Donna Cummings at
Add your comments here:

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NSDL and the Southern Regional Education Board to Present "Online Learning for the 21st Century" at
The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with leaders and policy-makers in 16 member states to improve pre-K through postsecondary education. This discussion will present digital resources from NSDL and SREB that support instruction and teacher professional development, to encourage discussion of the future of online learning in other states with science leaders. Contact Susan Van Gundy for more information

FOR TEACHERS: Chemistry Comes Alive!
Discover a treasure chest of digital resources that will enhance your ability to make chemistry come alive for your students! In the lab and in the classroom, the demonstrations and digital materials found in the Journal of Chemical Education Digital Library (JCE),
can bring the WOW! factor to your students. Register for this free seminar on March 8 at 6:30-8:00 Eastern time to explore 3-D molecular models, video, and a hands-on activity you can do with your students.

The seminar is designed for educators of grades 6th-12th. JCE and the American Chemical Society (ACS) are the lead organizations of NSDL's newest Pathway for Chemistry, the ChemEd Digital Library.

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Assigning Grade Levels to NSDL Resources
Charles Cowart, Bing Zhu, and Reagan Moore, San Diego Supercompter Center (SDSC), have developed a Grade Level Assessment Service (GLAS) for use with NSDL resources. Since 2002 SDSC has been an NSDL partner in developing the technical infrastructure to create a "memory" for the Library through long-term archiving services. The new GLAS service associates a grade level with each word used in an online resource. If 99% of the words are from say, the sixth grade level or lower for example, the resource is assigned to the 6th grade.

The dictionary used for the grade level analysis at SDSC was composed through an iterative approach. Starting with an initial dictionary with 5,514 words representing grade level vocabularies for kindergarten through the 6th grade. The material was characterized in a crawl of the NSDL URLs. Each URL was then assigned a grade level, allowing 1% of the words to be from a higher grade level. Researchers then looked at the 1% of the words that appeared from higher grade levels that were present in the material, and reassigned the words to lower grade levels when appropriate. So far 5 assessment iterations have been conducted. The total number of words that are now recognized by grade level is 4,994,883. The number of words associated with grade levels from kindergarten through high school is much smaller--71,095 words. Many of the words in the extended list represent technical terms, or common miss-spellings.

A sixth iteration of the grade level analysis is in progress. The tasks for analyzing the NSDL material (3.3 million HTML files and 1.2 million text files) are executed in parallel on the Teragrid computer at SDSC. For each crawled website, the output of the analysis is the number of words in each grade level from 0 to 16, where 0 stands for kindergarten and 16 for college. The results are published through the GLAS service, with each URL assigned a grade level that is consistent with the vocabulary used within the material at that web site.

The Grade Level Assessment Service (GLAS) is based on the OAI-PMH 2.0 specification. It supports incremental harvest, the NSDL extended Dublin Core metadata schema, and NSDL's education level element set. Contact Reagan Moore for more information

Digital Preservation Takes Off in the E-Environment
The International Conference on Preservation of Digital Objects (IPRES) was held at Cornell University Oct. 8-10. Cindy Boeke's report from appeared in the December issue of D-Lib Magazine where she observed,"As governments, state archives and libraries struggle to preserve and provide access to digitized government records and cultural heritage-related resources, the need for long-term digital storage is finally beginning to receive the attention it deserves. In today's Internet-based environment, a variety of digital storage projects are moving from the theoretical realm into reality. As digital archives become more ubiquitous, the digital preservation profession is developing methods to certify and standardize their quality. At the same time, the archival community continues to struggle with finding acceptable formats for long-term preservation and obtaining ongoing funding for the exploding number of existing and proposed projects."

Boeke is the assistant curator for The American Society for Cell Biology's Image & Video Library
that is "a collection of peer-reviewed cell images, video clips, and digitized texts that illustrate the structure, function and biology of the cell, the fundamental unit of life." Add your comments here:

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NSDL Blogwatch: Social Networks
A companion blog for students to share emerging ideas and research around a Cornell Information Science course that covers how the social, technological, and natural worlds are connected, and how the study of networks sheds light on these connections is a recommended read. Fast-paced posts and comments about far-reaching network issues such as the spread of SARS, intelligence-gathering, online social behavior metrics and morality in game theory are all part of this fascinating conversation.

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McNeil News Hour Science Reports
"Science Reports" are rich collections of in-depth resources related to current science topics. The reports are developed from News Hour stories in collaboration with top reporters, researchers and media specialists. Special sections include, Body and Brain, Earth and Environment, Space, and Technology. Features include podcasts of science stories and policy debates that allow people to save and listen to broadcast programs when and where they want.

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NSF NSDL Solicitation
Letters of intent are due on March 14 with full proposals due on April 11, 2007. "The program has three tracks: (1) Pathways projects are expected to provide stewardship for the content and services needed by major communities of learners.(2) Services projects are expected to develop services that support users, resource collection providers, and the Core Integration effort and that enhance the impact, efficiency, and value of the library. (3)Targeted Research projects are expected to explore specific topics that have immediate applicability to collections, services, and other aspects of the development of the digital library. In FY2007 the program will only accept proposals in the Pathways track and specific components of the Services track." Contact Lee Zia for more information

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"Electronic Techtonics" Thinking at the Interface, April 19-21, Durham, NC
Electronic Techtonics: Thinking at the Interface is an unprecedented three-day mashup of ideas, demos, art, and conversation, driven by digital visionaries and practitioners from across domains and disciplines. This conference is co-sponsored by Duke University, Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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Published from 2000 to September 2009, NSDL Whiteboard Report Archives provide access to prior issues of the bi-weekly newsletter published by NSDL. To subscribe to current news and information about NSDL, go to the NSDL Community Network site, register as a user, subscribe to and participate in selected features found there. For more information contact Eileen McIlvain