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History and Objectives

SEPA was created to encourage active biomedical and/or behavioral scientists to work
as partners with educators, media experts, community leaders, and other interested
organizational leaders on projects that improve student understanding of the health
sciences in K-12 education,
and increase the public’s understanding of science.

Request for applications (RFA’s) for SEPA have been posted in 1991, 1992, 1994, and
every year since 1996. Since 1991, the program has been administered by the National
Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. To date, 150 SEPA awards
have been distributed across the United States.

A Joint Effort to Start SEPA:
In 1991, NIH joined with the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration
(ADAMHA) to initiate the SEPA program in response to one of the six
“National Education Goals”
set forth by President Bush and the Nation’s governors:
that by 2000, students in the United States will be the world leaders in science
and mathematic achievement.
At the time, NIH and ADAMHA were two of the seven
agencies of the Public Health Service, which then compromised an array of agencies
dedicated to research, study, and public education programs in hundreds of areas
related to biomedical and behavioral sciences.

In the joint RFA, NIH encouraged applicants to submit model programs that joined
working scientists and educators in enhancing pre-college science education and public
understanding in such biomedical sciences as molecular biology, molecular genetics,
immunology, neuroscience, bioinformatics and ethical issues, the role of environmental
health, and the benefits and risks of genetic engineering.

ADAHMHA sought programs that focused on scientific knowledge about the brain and
behavior, and the relation of brain and behavior to addictive and mental disorders. They
also requested programs that explored the basic sciences underlying such disorders,
including neurosciences, psychology, pharmacology, and genetics.

Twenty-four pilot projects were funded in 1991 and awards totaled nearly $6 million.

SEPA’s Continued Objectives:
In the program’s second year, in addition to the goals established in 1991, the public
Health Service (PHS) encouraged applicants for SEPA funding to submit projects
that addressed the specific health promotion and disease prevention objectives
of “Healthy People 2000,”
the government’s health objectives for the nation.
However, these prevention messages had to fit into the context of the relationship
between science and health. ADAMHA requested projects that focused on improving
adult science literacy with respect to mental and addictive disorders, especially projects
that addressed neuroscience and its importance in mental and addictive disorders.

In 1993, the ADAMHA was reorganized and became part of several NIH institutes.
The NIH Office of Science Education Policy/Office of Science Policy and Technology
Transfer became the primary funding organization.

In 1994 and 1996, the SEPA RFA’s focused on the finalization of those model pilot
programs that needed additional time and support to evolve and mature. NIH encouraged
applicants that would develop and evaluate model biomedical and/or behavioral science
education partnership programs (Phase I) or develop effective strategies for the
dissemination of successful existing, innovative programs (Phase II).

Since 1996, the specific objectives of the grant announcements have varied slightly
with each request for application (RFA). Inquiry based learning, advances in molecular
biology, and awareness of upcoming infectious disease and health disparities such
as obesity and diabetes have all played a roll in evolving SEPA’s objectives. However, the
intent of the program has remained constant….to develop partnerships between public
and private sector organizations, scientists, and educators to create model programs
that will increase the scientific literacy of school children and youth and their parents.

This history was taken from “The Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA):
A History and A Report on the Fifth Annual Meeting of the SEPA Project Directors”