NSF’s Institutional Integration and Innovation
(I-Cubed) Activity

Westat’s participation in the I-Cubed project

The premise of NSF's Innovation through Institution Integration program (I-Cubed) is to forge new links between ideas or methodologies that were previously disparate – so that innovation may be both enhanced and optimized in STEM education. When intellectual perspectives are not integrated, opportunity is lost. When intellectual perspectives are not merely integrated, but creatively integrated, unintended benefits derive from the collaboration such that the "whole truly exceeds the sum of its parts." The purpose of this research project – Investigating Operational Meaning and Occurrence in I-Cubed – is to examine a range of I-Cubed projects to develop a deeper understanding of the factors that lead to successful integration and innovation, as well as the obstacles that must be overcome.

The research is designed to examine the nature and evolution of campus-wide networks and collaborative relations between individuals from disparate NSF programs over a 5-year period, using interviews, surveys, and social network analysis. The project focused on a sample of up to six I-Cubed projects varying in location, population served, overall educational context, and change strategy. The six institutions are Arizona State Univerversity, Colorado University at Bolder, Hunter College, Kapiolani Community College, Texas Tech University, and the University of Texas El Paso. The work is guided by a conceptual model of the change process that defines both internal and external conditions at institutions of higher education that may affect the nature of cultural transformation (See Resources Section).

To date the research review of annual reports and related documents to monitor self-reported progress; two site visits to five of the six institutions to develop a comprehensive understanding of the strategies being used, accomplishments, and challenges. Two rounds of social network analysis have been conducted,  aimed at examining trust relationships and changes in them. A survey has been administered to all I-Cubed grantees.

We expect our findings will have significance for four types of audiences:

  1. I-Cubed awardees;
  2. Other higher education institutions involved in STEM education;
  3. The I-Cubed NSF Initiative program officers; and
  4. Other NSF directorates that wish to spur research innovation through institutional integration.