Kees van Gestel, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

In September 2019, the open online textbook “Environmental Toxicology” was published. This book aims at covering the field in its full width, including aspects of environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, toxicology and risk assessment. With that, it is crafted to contribute to improving the quality, continuity and transparency of the education in environmental toxicology. It is designed to guarantee that fundamental insights on fate and effects of chemicals gained in the past are combined with recent approaches of effects assessment and molecular analysis of mechanisms causing toxicity.

The book consists of six chapters, which all are designed in a modular way. Each module has clear learning objectives, a limited length (1,000–2,000 words), and contains some questions for self-study. A few modules are enlighted with short clips, animations or movies to allow better illustration of the theory. The introduction chapter of the book, for instance, contains a short interview with two key experts reflecting on the development of the field over the past 30 years.

The open online textbook was developed by a project team consisting of environmental toxicologists and chemists from six Dutch universities, who drafted the outline of the book and identified authors for each module. Each module is authored by one or two members of the project team. When a topic required expertise not present among the project team, an external expert, often from abroad, was asked to write the module.

To guarantee the quality of the book, each module was reviewed by at least one of the members of the project team and also by an international reviewer from outside the project team. The project was supervised by an advisory board, a steering committee and educational advisors. The project team served as the editorial board.

The publication of this book on an open online publication platform allows free access to anyone. It is also embedded in learning management systems used in university teaching, thereby giving students easy access. The modular composition of the book will allow teachers to design their “own” book by selecting those modules relevant for the class they teach. This will support flexible use of the book.

The publication as an open online book will allow for continuous updating, so it can stay on top of new developments in the field. As it stands, about 100 modules have been finalized, another 30 modules are already available in drafts and currently in the process of being reviewed, and some are still in preparation. In spite of the large number of modules, which do provide a good basis for teaching at the bachelor of science level, we realize the book is still not complete. The book needs more advanced modules that would facilitate teaching at the master of science level and higher, as well as widening the number of topics covered. We would also like to include a broader perspective on regulatory issues so the book covers different geographic regions. Therefore, we will continue working on the book, but we also welcome any suggestions for extending the book. We invite colleagues in environmental toxicology and chemistry to take the initiative to write modules on topics still missing.

The preparation of this book was sponsored by the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science through SURF (Coöperatie SURF U.A.) and could not have been realized without the help of many colleagues who assisted in the writing and reviewing the different modules.

The book may be found at https://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=501319930.

Author’s contact information: kees.van.gestel@vu.nl

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