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

The Whiteboard Report
January 2006, Issue #87



The Nature of What is Not Science
Intelligent design advocates suggest that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher force. Judy McIlvaine, a recently elected member of the Dover, PA school board, believes that concepts like intelligent design should be discussed, "but we do not want to see it in biology class," said McIlvaine. "It is not a science."

Those who oppose the unconstitutional teaching of religion in public school classrooms were encouraged by U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones III December 20, 2005 decision in the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District. A group of 11 parents sued the Dover school district because they believed that the intelligent design statement approved by the Dover school board in October 2004 requiring ninth-graders to hear a prepared statement about intelligent design before learning about evolution in biology class was an attempt to promote religious views in a public school curriculum in violation of their First Amendment rights. In his lengthy and comprehensive decision Judge Jones found that the premises of intelligent design cannot be tested by the methods of science and that no credible scientific evidence has been presented to support it. He also rejected adding those beliefs to the curriculum, noting the irresponsible behavior of board members who denied their religious motivations in court as they flaunted them publicly.

Dover, PA is not the only community where the ID controversy is being played out. Science standards for public schools that cast doubt on the theory of evolution were approved by the Kansas state Board of Education on Nov. 9, 2005 where intelligent design advocates helped draft the standards.

The Kansas standards will decide what goes on the tests for students to determine how well schools teach science. More than likely only a few questions, if any, will be affected as the first tests under the new standards are given in 2008. Only a quarter of the state's 445,000 students may actually answer those questions.

As in Dover, PA, however, not all board members supported the decision. "We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said Kansas board member Janet Waugh.

This controversy will not go away. Corporate sponsors for what should have been a fairly typical exhibit that opened in November celebrating the life of Charles Darwin at the American Museum of Natural History were scared off by the controversy. The $3 million cost was borne by private contributors and organizations.

Educators who would like to learn more about how to help students learn exactly why intelligent design is not a science might consider attending the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) 54th National Conference on Science Education in Anaheim on April 6, 2005 where key individuals from the Dover trial including science teachers, scientists, attorneys, and other experts involved in the case will recount the challenges, stakes, strategy, and outcome of this important trial.

The Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District decision is available at:
The National Center for Science Education has provided statements from science and education organizations as well as a comprehensive look at the media and public response to the Dover decision at:
"Defending Science by Defining It":
"Kansas' Definition of Science":
"Kansas Board of Ed. Adopts Intelligent Design":
"Dover Voters Oust Intelligent Design Supporters":
"Evolution Slate Outpolls Rivals":
"The Darwin Exhibition Frightening Off Corporate Sponsors":
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Leveraging Cyberinfrastructure Opportunities: EPIC and NSDL
Engaging People in Cyberinfrastructure(EPIC) initiative has actively sought the involvement of larger and more diverse audiences. Efforts have included the formation of the Virtual Institutes to involve EPIC and the external community in addressing common threads and issues across eight topical areas: Access Grid in Education Virtual Institute; Asynchronous Training Virtual Institute; Computational Sciences Curriculum Virtual Institute Activities; Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (CHASS) Virtual Institute; K-12 Virtual Institute; Minority Serving Institution Virtual Institute; Visualization in Education; and Women and Girls in Cyberinfrastructure Virtual Institute.

The EPIC web site is a collection of resources, stories, events and opportunities presented so that the community might benefit from the work of cyberinfrastructure initiatives led by EPIC partners and collaborators.

The launch of the public CyberInfo Beat electronic newsletter to an initial mailing of over 1,000 people seeks to to draw attention to and engage communities in accessing resources and identifying opportunities to participate. The monthly newsletter launched in September is a joint effort among EPIC, the National Computational Science Institute, the TeraGrid EOT activities, and the National Science Digital Library.
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Analyzing Usage: Tail Wags Dog
Web developers often stress the importance of a web site having a high ranking in search engine indexes, in order for that search engine to drive traffic to the web site. In contrast with many other NSDL projects, however, obtains more referrals from web pages than from search engines. An analysis of these referrals shows that numerous sites each provide a small number of referrals to, and that in aggregate these outrank referrals from search engines, resulting in a significant flow of traffic. Elsewhere this phenomenon has been called the 'long tail effect'; according to Anderson (2004), "The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of 'hits' (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail." In the context of usage at, the "long tail" of referrals--the aggregate significance of many referrals from lots of projects--helps explain the significance of the fluid nature of NSDL overall usage across many sites. Long tail models suggest that many one-time or two-time referrals from links on smaller sites do indeed, cumulatively, provide more referrals to than search engines. In other words, it may be worthwhile for NSDL to grow the tail.

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Help Plan the NSDL 2006 Annual Meeting--Committee Seeks At-Large Representative
The Planning Committee for the NSDL Annual Meeting is comprised of representatives from each of the NSDL standing committees plus an At-Large representative, in addition to Core Integration staff. The At-Large position for the 2006 meeting is currently vacant. All members of the NSDL community are eligible to serve in this position regardless of project type, funding status, or role within a project. The commitment to participate on the planning committee includes weekly hour-long teleconferences, a 2-3 day face to face meeting in February or March, and activities at the annual meeting. Please contact Susan Van Gundy ( or 303-818-4742) if you are interested in serving or for further details.
Related Link: Feature Watch
At's homepage an exhibit called "Homepage Highlights" currently displays a "Resource of Interest" providing information about the NSDL resource APS Careers in Physics Student Guidance Resources. The homepage exhibit changes weekly. If you would like to contribute 250 words for a "News" or "Resource of Interest" homepage highlight please contact Carol Minton Morris at 607 255-2702 or by email ( The time frame is open-ended. Your insights featured prominently on's homepage will help NSDL visitors find out more about resources and underscore NSDL's role in providing valuable context for learning resources.
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Blocked: Experiences of High School Students Conducting Term Paper Research With Filtered Web Access
Financial incentives for federal e-rate funding under the provisions of the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) drive decisions to filter Internet content in many school districts. A new study conducted by Lynn Sutton, Director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC., suggests that poorly administered filtering can seriously hinder student Internet research.
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Software Development in Russia
Analysts predict that Russia will capture a 5 percent share of North American and Western European offshore custom software development dollars by 2007.
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Google Video
Google's mission to organize the world's information includes video. Users may now access and view archived video from numerous sources using Google's new browse and display tools. A search on "chemistry" at Google Video's beta version points out the difference between science videos found in NSDL and those found in Google Video. The Google results featured a sampling of short subjects that had something to do with chemistry, very broadly defined, including a student-created musical gem entitled "Hello, We Love Organic Chemistry." The same search at turned up "The Chemistry of Interstellar Space" among 139 other results.
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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