Initial Publication Date: April 10, 2020

CURE Sustainability

What do we mean by "sustainability?"

CUREs can be sustained at multiple levels, ranging from the continuance of a particular program to a long-lasting shift in the culture of laboratory instruction at an institution. In the broadest sense, a CURE effort could be considered sustained if it produces a shift in how faculty teach science labs. For example, in some cases, faculty members start teaching CUREs by joining an existing CURE program, but then decide to change to another CURE program or even develop their own. In this sense, the culture of CURE instruction is sustained, but the particularities of the CURE being taught need not stay the same. It may be less important that a particular CURE is taught and more important that there is a sustained opportunity for a broad range of students to engage in research.

Even sustaining a particular program can look differently depending on the context. A CURE can be sustained because it has a research question that is sufficiently complex to make it possible to involve many students in carrying out the research over multiple years. Alternatively, research questions may evolve over time, such that the structure of the CURE is maintained but the research questions being addressed and the research tasks students carry out change over time. For example, some CURE initiatives intend to provide a common technology, structure, or operational framework for instructors to use. Thus, individual implementations of the CURE can look quite different from each other while maintaining the spirit of engaging students in research in their courses.

Making progress toward sustainability

In order to help CURE instructors, developers, administrators, and other stakeholders plan for and achieve sustainability of their CURE initiatives, CUREnet gathered a working group of 13 individuals who had been involved in sustaining CURE initiatives beyond an initial round of funding for CURE development. These individuals generated descriptions of how their CURE initiatives had been sustained over time, including any challenges they encountered. The group then worked to identify and describe six, cross-cutting themes that reflected how they were able to achieve some level of sustainability: (1) Demonstrate the effectiveness of CUREs, (2) Work with and support faculty, (3) Make it work for students, (4) Make it flexible for departments and institutions, (5) Develop distributed leadership, and (6) Capitalize on initial investment. Detailed descriptions of these themes are linked below and to the left, with specific examples of how the theme was operationalized in the different CURE initiatives.

How to use the sustainability pages

This website may be most helpful for existing CURE initiatives that are beginning to think about how to sustainability. However, leaders of new initiatives may find some of the themes relevant to think about from the beginning of their CURE development. For example, it is important to collect data to assess student outcomes from participating in the CURE in order to improve the program, gain funding, and garner buy-in from faculty and administrators. There are two main ways to navigate: by theme or by profile. The themes highlight the ways CURE initiatives achieved some level of sustainability along with specific examples from several CURE initiatives. The profiles describe the stories of particular CURE initiatives that have been sustained, including the challenges they faced and the strategies they employed to achieve sustainability.

CURE Sustainability Themes

Demonstrate EffectivenessWork with FacultyMake it Work for StudentsMake it FlexibleDevelop Distributed LeadershipCapitalize on Initial Investment

About These Pages

The content of these pages was generated by a working group of 13 CURE leaders at a two-day working meeting to identify themes relevant to CURE sustainability. In advance of the meeting, participants generated descriptions of how their CURE initiative has been sustained over time and challenges they had encountered. Based on these descriptions, six themes were identified: prove the concept, work with and support faculty, make it work for students, make it flexible for departments and institutions, develop distributed leadership, and capitalize on initial investment. At the meeting, CURE leaders discussed these themes and generated text and examples illustrating how these themes relate to CURE sustainability.

Funding for this work is provided by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. 1154681 and 1730273.