1. Introduction and Background

This document presents the Principles of Operation (PoO) of the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) project, which have been agreed upon by the Participating Institutions. They may be revised as needed by future agreements. Changes to the PoO must be approved by the Collaboration Council.

This document provides the basis for the governance of SEISMIC. The Project Director will develop and put in place specific procedures and rules to run SEISMIC smoothly in a manner consistent with the PoO. The Director should keep the Collaboration Council informed about such procedures and rules, and ensure that the Project Manager keeps the Collaboration informed through public postings (e.g. on the SEISMIC webpage).

1.1 Key Terms

  • Additional Project: Project taking place within SEISMIC which does not (yet) rise to the level of a Working Group Key Project.
  • Administrative Patron: Representative at each institution that is able to represent SEISMIC interests to campus leadership and provide support for the institutional team.
  • Advisory Council: 8 experts from non-participating institutions who provide input and advice to the Project Director.
  • Collaboration Council (CoCo): Governing body for SEISMIC collaboration. Includes one voting member from each member institution, either the Local Principal Investigator or their designated substitute.
  • External Participant: An individual participating in a SEISMIC Key or Additional Project who is not employed by or attending a participating institution. Approval for External Participation is obtained by application to the CoCo.
  • Key Project: Project that a Working Group takes responsibility for advancing. Key projects are selected by Working Groups on an annual basis, and each includes a set of milestones and a schedule for the coming year.
  • Local Principal Investigators (PIs): Key points of contact between participating institutions and SEISMIC leadership. They are typically voting members of the Collaboration Council. Replacements of Local PIs will be decided on by their institutional teams.
  • Member Institutions / Participating Institutions: Institutions who have (1) a complete and signed Memorandum of Understanding approved by the Collaboration Council and (2) agree to abide by the SEISMIC Principles of Operation.
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): Agreement made between each participating institution and the Collaboration Council prior to joining SEISMIC. Each MOU is signed by the institution’s Local PI and Admistrative Patron, and the SEISMIC Project Director and Project Manager.
  • Participants: Individuals employed by or attending participating institutions who choose to be involved in SEISMIC activities and to be identified as SEISMIC participants.
  • Principles of Operation: This document, which contains the principles and procedures for the collaborative work of the SEISMIC project.
  • Project Director: Principal point of contact between the SEISMIC collaboration and the Sloan Foundation.
  • Project Manager: Manages work for the SEISMIC administrative team, which consists of the Collaboration Council, Project Director, and Summer Meeting Coordinator. Maintans records of official collaboration documents and publications.
  • Summer Meeting Coordinator: SEISMIC employee who works with SEISMIC leadership and the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching to coordinate the annual Summer Meetings.
  • Working Group (WG): A collection of SEISMIC participants who come together around a theme of work, led by two co-chairs. WGs define Key Projects and take responsibility for their progress. They also encourage and foster the emergence of additional projects within their theme of work. WGs also help their participants organize and acquire funding for projects.

2. Collaboration Goals

The SEISMIC (Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses) project is a sustained multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary STEM education research and development collaboration. This collaboration is motivated by a focus on equity and inclusion in large foundational courses as the central goal of the reform process, and aims to define a new standard for STEM reform projects: a class cannot be successful unless it is equitable and inclusive.

SEISMIC will take advantage of efforts already underway on many university campuses, drawing together a close, multifaceted collaboration of STEM reform communities from 10 or more large research universities. Participants will connect through parallel data collection and analyses, coordinated experiments, comparative study, continuous exchange of speakers and graduate student researchers, and extended annual meetings.

Parallel data analyses and comparison of results will focus on studies of equity and inclusion and STEM persistence across all institutions. Coordinated experimentation and comparative study will be considered across multiple campuses and in multiple disciplines. Continuous exchange of speakers and annual meetings will accelerate research, build community, enhance the spread of ideas, and reinforce our focus on equity and inclusion as a central metric for STEM reform success.

SEISMIC will encourage and enable WGs to execute equity and inclusion Key Project and Additional Project research as defined by the WGs. SEISMIC will also support participants in their efforts to transform foundational STEM courses as defined by Key Projects developed by the WGs. The CoCo and Administrative Patrons are committed to helping the WGs accomplish the work they select for themselves.

Details of the research and practice goals of SEISMIC will be described in the Key Projects developed by the Working Groups.


2.1 Analysis of Data

Analysis of data relevant for assessing equity and inclusion in STEM education is an essential element of SEISMIC. Core data for this project come from Student Information Systems (SIS) present on all campuses. SIS data include admissions, demographic, and transcript level data about each student. Participating Institutions should have research access to this data and be able to report results to the collaboration. The purpose of making this data available is to enable the research defined by the Key Projects.

Working Groups will seek to expand the range of data available for study, at least in some areas and on some campuses. Working Groups will develop shared measures for assessing equity and inclusion, and offer the opportunity to conduct parallel analyses to all Participating Institutions. When Working Groups or individuals wish to present on the results of the parallel analyses, all institutional results will be anonymized unless permission is given by the Local PI to share the results.

2.2 Coordinated Experimentation and Comparative Analysis

Cooperation among the Participating Institutions is intended to make coordinated observation and experimentation across multiple campuses much easier to accomplish. Efforts to expand studies initially conceived on a single campus and to begin new multi-institutional studies will be fostered by the efforts of Working Groups.

2.3 Structures for Reform

All SEISMIC Participating Institutions are engaged in efforts to reform their introductory STEM courses. A central goal of the SEISMIC project is to support the local reform efforts underway on each campus. To achieve this goal, SEISMIC participants will also engage in cooperative efforts to understand and improve the institutional structures which encourage and enable reform on research university campuses.

2.4 Key Projects

Key Projects are defined by Working Groups and will constitute core activities of SEISMIC, generally undertaken across most of the collaboration. Key Projects should have as their ambition dissemination beyond the collaboration, through publications and presentations. WGs may propose Key Projects at any time, but will be expected to reconsider all projects annually.

Once a Key Project is defined, the sponsoring Working Group should provide plans for the work to the collaboration, invite contributions from all SEISMIC Participants, identify team members and leads, and provide regular updates both to Working Group members and the collaboration as a whole. When Key Project results are prepared for publication, they will be made available to the entire collaboration for review and comment for a period of two weeks. Key Project teams will be expected to respond to all internal review comments within two weeks, with disputes to be settled by Working Group chairs.

It is expected that each Working Group will begin with a focus on a small number of Key Projects, and that the list may expand over time as SEISMIC’s research and development capacity grows.

2.5 Additional Projects

The existence of the SEISMIC collaboration and its Working Groups creates opportunities for shared analysis and coordinated experimentation which will support many projects which do not rise to Key Project status. They may involve only a subset of Participating Institutions, focus on a single discipline, or raise important but relatively narrow research questions. It is hoped that many such Additional Projects will emerge in and be fostered by the Working Groups. As with Key Projects, Working Groups are expected to maintain plans for active Additional Projects, to invite contributions from all SEISMIC Participants, and to provide regular updates on progress.

3. Participation

3.1 Institutional Membership

The 10 pilot universities become institutional members of SEISMIC by negotiating and signing an MOU with the Project Director, who then brings it for approval to the CoCo. Member institutions must identify a Local Principal Investigator and an Administrative Patron, who are then expected to invite and encourage participation from their local community of education researchers and practitioners. The PI and Patron are responsible for ensuring that local participants have access to institutional data needed to participate in SEISMIC Key Projects.

Universities that wish to join SEISMIC after its initial year (2019) may be required to pay a membership fee to join the collaboration, in addition to negotiating and signing an MOU with the Project Director and identifying a Local PI and Administrative Patron.

3.2 Individual Participation Within Member Institutions

All individuals employed by or attending a Member Institution are eligible to become Participants of SEISMIC. Participation is granted automatically to any eligible candidate who agrees to accept the rights and responsibilities laid out in the SEISMIC Principles of Operation.

Rights include access to all SEISMIC collaboration communications, the opportunity to join in and contribute to all Key and Additional Projects defined by SEISMIC working groups, and to attend SEISMIC collaboration meetings. Responsibilities include contributing ideas and effort toward the development and completion of SEISMIC projects.

3.3 Individual Participation from Outside Member Institutions

The processes for approving continuing and external participation in SEISMIC are to ensure these participants are joining because of specific things they can bring to the project. They are also to ensure the external participants do not take opportunities away from existing SEISMIC participants and that the project leads are satisfied with their participation.

A continuing participant is any person that worked on a SEISMIC project at a SEISMIC institution before moving to a non-SEISMIC institution. Examples include undergraduate students, graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows that graduate or switch institutions. Anyone interested in being a continuing participant must follow the process below to apply.

  1. Applicant writes a statement addressing the following questions and shares with project lead(s) for approval.
    1. Why do you want to continue to work in this specific SEISMIC project?
    2. How would your new role and expectations impact your work in this project?
    3. What would you bring to SEISMIC?
  2. If applicant is approved by project lead(s), applicant shares statement with CoCo for approval.

An external participant is any person from a non-SEISMIC institution that participates in the SEISMIC collaboration. This person does not have any prior commitments to SEISMIC. An external participant must join SEISMIC through a key project or additional project. The CoCo will review external participants each year to confirm they are still valuable to the collaboration. Every external participant must have a sponsor from an existing SEISMIC institution. Anyone interested in being an external participant must follow the process below to apply.

  1. Applicant writes a statement addressing the following questions and shares with project lead(s) for approval.
    1. Why do you want to join this specific SEISMIC project?
    2. What would you bring to SEISMIC?
  2. Sponsor shares statement with project lead(s) for approval. If there are multiple project leads, approval must be unanimous.
  3. If applicant is approved by project lead(s), applicant shares statement with CoCo for approval.

4. Collaboration Structures

4.1 Collaboration Council (CoCo)

The Collaboration Council (CoCo) includes the Local PI from each Member Institution or their designated representative. The CoCo is the governing body for the SEISMIC collaboration, charged with establishing and maintaining these Principles of Operation, developing and supporting a system of Working Groups to organize collaboration work, and providing guidance on the project’s Speaker Exchange and Summer Meetings.

4.2 Advisory Council (AC)

The Project Director and Collaboration Council will receive input from an external Advisory Council which includes eight nationally recognized experts in equity and inclusion in STEM who are not already involved in the project. This AC will conduct virtual meetings twice a year, gathering in person twice during the course of this project: once near the end of the first year and once at the beginning of the third year. The AC will provide project leadership with feedback on Key Project plans. It will also help to represent the project to the larger higher education community.

4.3 Project Director and Advisory Council

The Project Director provides the primary point of contact between the SEISMIC collaboration and the Sloan Foundation. In this role, the Director is responsible for recruiting an Advisory Council of eight external advisors, coordinating the work of the Project Manager and Project Evaluation Team, reporting progress to the Sloan Foundation, and managing central SEISMIC project funding and budgets.

4.4 Project Manager

The Project Manager organizes the efforts of the SEISMIC leadership team, including the Collaboration Council, the Project Director, the Advisory Council, the Project Evaluation Team, and the Summer Meeting Coordinator. The Project Manager also maintains records of all official collaboration documents and publications, and coordinates collaboration communications.

4.5 Working Groups

Working Groups are collections of SEISMIC Participants who come together around a theme of work. Membership in all Working Groups is open to all SEISMIC Participants. Anticipated major themes of work include:

  • Measurement of equity and inclusion in STEM education
  • Coordinated experimentation in STEM introductory courses
  • Exploring structures and incentives which support STEM reform

The scale and scope of each Working Group will be defined by Participants, and it is anticipated that new Working Groups will form around emergent themes of work. Each Working Group will be led by two co-chairs, typically from different institutions. Working Group Chairs are responsible for:

  • Organizing regular meetings
  • Maintaining agendas for meetings
  • Reporting progress to the SEISMIC Project Manager for dissemination to the collaboration
  • Coordinating dissemination of results through publications and presentations
  • Encouraging and supporting the submission of grant proposals to support WG activities
  • Organizing activities of WG at Summer Meetings

4.6 Institutional Teams

Institutional Teams are led by Local Principal Investigators, with guidance from their Administrative Patron. Institutional Teams are expected to advocate for and advertise the SEISMIC project on their own campus to recruit additional participants, expand administrative support, and enhance project impact. Each Institutional Team is also responsible for coordinating local efforts. This includes deciding how to distribute their SEISMIC graduate student funding, selecting Participants to attend the Summer Meetings, and coordinating their local Speaker Exchange.

5. Research and Publication Policies

The goal of SEISMIC research publication policies is to encourage eager participation in research projects, support their timely completion, and ensure that SEISMIC participants receive appropriately generous recognition for their work.

5.1 Research Projects

Research projects should be developed within the context of Working Groups, who will be responsible for categorizing each as Key or Additional, developing a project description, identifying lead researchers, and defining proposed timelines. A list of all Research Projects will be maintained by the Project Manager. Every participant may join any project team by notifying the appropriate Working Group of their interest. Members of project teams are expected to attend regularly to project progress, contributing at least ideas and feedback.

SEISMIC participants are always welcome to develop and pursue research projects which grow out of our collaborative connections but are not within the goals of SEISMIC.

5.2 Publications and Authorship

Publications which describe the results of Key Projects will be prepared by members of the Key Project teams. Any SEISMIC Participant may request that their name be added to the list of authors of any Key Project paper with the presumption that permission will be granted if there has been any significant contribution to that research project, either specifically or through overall contributions to SEISMIC. “Significant contribution” will be determined by the Working Group chairs, and can be appealed to the CoCo. The expectation is for authors to contribute at least ideas and feedback.

Publications which describe the results of Additional Projects will be prepared by members of the Additional Project teams. Participants who contribute to any Additional Project may request that their name be added to the list of authors of any resulting paper with the presumption that permission will be granted if there has been any significant contribution to that research project.

Determinations of who has made the significant contributions required for co-authorship will be made by Working Group Chairs. Disputes about such determinations may be appealed to the Collaboration Council, which has final authority.

All papers produced using the resources of the SEISMIC collaboration will include a standard collaboration acknowledgement. The text of this acknowledgement will be developed by the Collaboration Council and maintained by the Project Manager.

6. Proposals

6.1 Proposals by SEISMIC as a Whole

The Project Director has a responsibility to foster the generation of proposals to support the SEISMIC project as a whole. Such proposals may be suggested by any Participant, and should be developed in consultation with the Project Director and the Collaboration Council.

Proposals to support Key Project research may be suggested by any Participant, and should be developed in consultation with Working Group chairs. All such proposals should aim to be as inclusive as is practical, seeking and providing support to as many Participants and institutions as possible.

6.2 Other Proposals to Fund Scientific Research

Proposals to support Additional Projects may be suggested by any Participant, and should be developed cooperatively with others involved in the Additional Project team. All such proposals should aim to be as inclusive as is practical, seeking and providing support to as many Participants and institutions as possible.

6.3 Initiatives for Extension Beyond Initial 3-Year Plan

The SEISMIC Director will lead efforts to write proposals to extend SEISMIC, with the help of the Collaboration Council. The collaboration will apply for planning and capacity-building grants to support larger collaboration meetings. Working Groups and individuals will lead efforts on proposals to support experiments and interventions.

7. Document Revision History

Version 0.1: Initial Principles of Operation draft (May 2019)
Version 0.2: Revisions around parallel data analysis, external participants, institutional participation, and proposals to extend SEISMIC beyond initial 3-year plan (November 2019)