DCHAS members may be interested to know that the National Academy of Sciences is ‰??Calling for Community Input on Revitalizing Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century‰??. You can go to
to read the complete request for input and provide yours. Note that the call ends on September 22.
In reviewing the materials presented at this web site, Sammye Sigmann and I noticed that safety education is not specifically included in the current discussion. We believe this is an appropriate opportunity for our community to address this concern. Specifically, we believe that, given the rapid changes taking place in the STEM fields, a foundational and transferrable element that should be required for all STEM students pursuing a graduate degree is risk assessment. We recognize that many STEM faculty do not currently have the education required to support this learning goal and new educational resources to support this learning goal will be required.
Our recommendation is based on the high cost of managing unrecognized risks after new technologies, and workers lacking the abilities needed to manage them, have been deployed in the economy. Examples of such costs include climate mitigation measures, remediation of hazardous waste sites and retraining costs for displaced workers.
With this in mind, our specific concerns are, with regard to ‰??Core Educational Elements for Master‰??s Degrees‰??
å• The next cohort of students in STEM fields should learn the concepts of risk assessment which includes the ability to recognize hazards, assess risks associated with those hazards, and propose methods to manage those risks as their work goes forward.
å• They should understand that there is a technical side of risk assessment which applies to the physical risks associated with chemicals and biological agents and a cultural side which promotes empowerment of individuals outside the STEM fields. Students in this cohort should recognize that there are social risks associated with the deployment of new technologies into the economy and address those risks as they emerge.
With regard to ‰??Core Educational Elements for Ph.D. Students‰??:
å• This cohort of students in STEM fields should acquire a deep and broad appreciation and understanding of hazard identification and risk assessment associated with new technologies that may emerge from their work.
å• Where laboratory work is integral to the doctoral program, opportunities to develop and mature the risk assessment knowledge and skills needed to manage chemical, physical, and biological hazards associated projects should be recognized and incorporated into the program of study.
å• If graduate faculty need support in this area of learning, they should seek outside expertise. A safety professional who is familiar with both best safety management practices and regulatory requirements related to the work being undertaken can be consulted by dissertation committees to ensure that the candidate has managed their work safely, as well as addresses foreseeable health and safety impacts associated with their work.
å• STEM doctoral students should acquire the knowledge and skills associated with teaching safety practices and risk assessment as they work through their degree requirements. There is a need for a scientists with these broad abilities to promote and elevate safety culture, as outlined in the 2014 National Academies "Safe Sciences" document and the 2016 APLU report on safety culture.
We believe that this is an important opportunity for the Environmental Health and Safety community to influence how scientists - who will be the future leaders in STEM fields - will be educated to become safety leaders in the laboratories in the twenty-first century. We encourage all members of DCHAS to respond to this call for input as you see fit.
Let me know if you have any questions about this.
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Environmental Safety Manager
Keene State College
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