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Projects : Electronic Encyclopedia of Earthquakes (E3)

Background and Purpose

Since 1999, NSF has funded a partnership comprising the Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC), the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE), and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) to produce a pilot version of the web-based Electronic Encyclopedia of Earthquakes (E3). The pilot project is on its way to success and we are enthusiastic about continuing our collaboration, which brings together over one hundred research organizations in earthquake science and engineering. A proposal to the NSF to support the full development of E3 has been submitted.

Earthquakes are a powerful theme for organizing a digital library and for providing educational access to a wide range of electronically available material. The largest earthquakes are planetary events generated by fault ruptures extending for a thousand kilometers or more, while the smallest earthquakes are fractures on the submillimeter scale, observed in the laboratory. Earthquakes are awesome natural phenomena and feared as agents of destruction; they cannot be controlled, nor does anyone yet know how to predict the time, place and size of individual large earthquakes. But earthquakes and their causes and effects are being studied by an increasingly rich array of observational and theoretical techniques, from high-precision satellite geodesy and high-performance seismometry to numerical simulations of strong ground motions and their destructive effects on buildings, lifelines, and urban systems. The scientists and engineers in our organizations are working with experts on the social and economic consequences of earthquakes to increase public awareness of earthquake dangers and reduce earthquake losses. An objective of this project is to further these twin goals by furnishing a well-organized portal for earthquake information.

The E3 project has two further objectives: (1) to leverage student curiosity about earthquakes into a better understanding of empirical inquiry and the scientific method, and (2) to furnish compelling examples of physics and mathematics in real-world action. The collection is aimed at supporting high schools and colleges by providing educators and students with the tools and resources for instruction, study and research. Primary users will include teachers who employ inquiry-based techniques to explore specific topics and students seeking materials for independent projects and research. The site will provide access to a wide variety of teaching materials, and it will link curricula to interfaces for accessing many types of archived and real-time databases, including the data from global and regional seismic networks, the national seismic hazard maps, and elastic and inelastic response histories of structures exposed to real or simulated (e.g. shake table) earthquakes. Hence, the site will facilitate the use of large data sets as part of an on-line learning environment that encourages and facilitates inquiry and exploration.

E3 will be a much-needed portal for students, educators, and others seeking information about the science of earthquakes, earthquake engineering, and the practical aspects of hazard characterization and loss reduction. There are many websites that contain excellent activities about earthquakes, but there is no unifying place where learners of all ages can access the information they need quickly and in an organized fashion. E3 will make earthquake information relevant to all members of the community, promote scientific literacy, and stress empowerment by providing a resource that is easily navigated and utilized. To the reviewer of this proposal who finds these goals lofty and general, we would agree, but we offer a specific plan for realizing those aims based on the pilot project phase of E3.

E3 will appeal to educators in formal and informal learning environments because it will provide a contextual and organized setting where they can obtain relevant information linked directly to the National Science Education Standards (NSES), which were published by the National Research Council in late 1995. E3 will address the following NSES content standards for grades 5-8 and 9-12:

    Science as Inquiry
    Physical Science
    Earth and Space Science
    Science and Technology
    Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    History and Nature of Science

The E3 partnership comprises SCEC, CUREE, and IRIS and is structured as a collaboration with the Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) (see DLESE Articles of Federation). E3 staff have attended several DLESE workshops and participate in DLESE on-line discussion groups. DLESE is an information system dedicated to the collection, enhancement, and distribution of materials that facilitate learning about the Earth System (see DLESE Collections Policy). It is a distributed effort, involving the Earth System education community as well as interested groups in information technology and library science (see DLESE Overview). In addition to individual resources (lessons, Java applets, videos, etc.) scattered about the Web on a multitude of sites, DLESE contains collections like E3 - thematically oriented and maintained by cooperating institutions (see DLESE Collections Scope Statement). Collaborating Partners agree to abide by the DLESE Articles of Federation and adhere to the policies set forth by the DLESE Steering Committee. In doing so, they benefit from access to coordinating, technical and community services.

Background and Purpose
Scope of E3
Participating Organizations
Project Organization and Management
Collection Development and Review Process
Preview E3 Website
Funded by:
NSF Logo
The National Science Foundation

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Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering
last updated 11.15.04