SEERNet’s co-PI, Dr. Stefani Pautz Stephenson (SPS), recently sat down with IES Program Officer, Erin Higgins, to discuss the recent call for applications via Digital Learning Platforms Network (also known as SEERNet) Research Teams (84.305N). Read on for more information about this proposal and how our work connects with it.
SPS: What is SEERNet and how does the current request for applications (RFA) connect to it?
EH: SEERNet is an IES-funded network of teams focused on leveraging existing, widely used digital learning platforms (DLPs) for rigorous education research. The network consists of a Network Lead, five Platform Teams, and one Research Team. A major focus of the network—and why IES chose a network approach—is bringing together researchers, educators, and platform developers to learn from each other and discuss common issues. The network is called “SEERNet” in reference to IES’s Standards for Excellence in Education Research (SEER), a set of research standards that reflects IES’s commitment to rigorous education research that is transparent, actionable, and focused on consequential outcomes. This year we are inviting applications for Research Teams to join SEERNet through the Research Networks Focused on Critical Problems of Education Practice and Policy grants program (ALN 84.305N), under the Digital Learning Platforms Research Teams topic. IES intends to support up to ten Research Teams between the already completed FY2023 competition and this FY2024 competition.
SPS: How do you see SEERnet pushing innovation and forward thinking ideas? How does conducting research in DLPs help us understand what works for who and under which conditions?
EH: Connecting research to practice is a continued challenge, and one of the reasons for this is the pace at which research is conducted and findings are shared. A major goal of this initiative is to consider how using DLPs could enable faster, cheaper, and more broadly representative research. By conducting research at scale, we are better able to test an innovative idea in a variety of learning contexts and with a diverse range of learners. The tight feedback loop between platform developers and researchers ensures that the research questions being asked are of relevance to the platform they’re implemented within and ensures that findings from the research can be used to inform future DLP development decisions.
SPS: What makes this RFA unique from others researchers may have seen? What should proposers pay attention to?
EH: Applicants should review the entire RFA closely to ensure that they comply with all requirements and are attentive to the recommendations for strong applications. The competition for research teams to join SEERNet is unique relative to other IES competitions in a few ways.
SPS: What tips might you give a new proposer about how to prepare an application?
My best advice is to leverage all of the available technical assistance resources available to you:
SPS: What is the review process? What should applicants expect or not expect?
Applications are due January 11, 2024. After the due date, the IES Standards and Review Office reviews all applications for responsiveness and compliance to the competition’s requirements. All applications that are determined to be responsive and compliant are sent forward to peer review. The peer review process is outlined in detail here. Peer review is conducted in two stages – initial review/triage and the panel meeting. After the panel meets, applicants will receive scores or indication that their application was triaged. Full written reviews will also be provided, though typically the scores are shared ahead of receiving the full written reviews. Until scores are shared, IES staff are not able to provide updates on the status of a particular proposal. New awards through this competition will be made prior to the awards’ start date of September 1, 2024.