A national network of researchers, educators and students will help bridge the communication gap between agricultural scientists and non-scientists.
The creation of the network is part of a grant project led by the Texas College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications and funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA- NIFA.
The Education Coordination Network, ECN, will be part of the USDA-NIFA Research and Extension Experience for Undergraduates, REEU. The national REEU-ECN will promote communication activities around agricultural research, extension and undergraduate training.
Informing the public
Dissemination of evidence-based information is critical to reducing gaps in science communication, said Gary Wingenbach, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research Senior Scientist and Professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, Bryan -College Station.
“Our goal is to reduce some gaps in science communication and gaps in science understanding between food scientists, researchers and the public,” he said. “We want to reduce the existing gaps between food science research and public understanding of that research. The more informed our public is, the more likely policies will be formulated that are favorable and positive for both producers and consumers. Our aim is to develop a national network connecting scientists, researchers, students and the public.
Wingenbach and Holli Leggette, Ph.D., director of the Science Communication Lab and associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication, Bryan-College Station, will develop a comprehensive project database system using Texas Cloud Services A&M AgriLife Research.
The ECN will host REEU projects from across the country or wherever the REEU project is located, Wingenbach said, with results to help develop the new system.
Exposing science through outreach
Educational outreach will include social media channels with weekly promotions, student videos, blogs and the program website.
“We also plan scientific forums twice a year, as well as a national meeting for all REEU project directors and participating students, including a student poster competition,” Wingenbach said. “We want to create national exposure for the REEU program, build science communication skills for all participants, and promote the REEU program to others.
He said roughly 30 to 35 programs are projected to join the community of practice with about 550 participants each year.
“It doesn’t include public engagement,” he said. “Over the five-year grant period, there may be 3,000 to 5,000 individuals to reach through the National REEU-ECN. Bridging the gap between research and public understanding is really important. We believe that this project will lead to many positive results.”