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How Can We Better Support Agriculture Scholars?

Today Ithaka S+R releases its in-depth report on the research activities of agriculture scholars as part of its ongoing program to explore the research activities of scholars by discipline. For Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Agriculture Scholars, we explore the breadth of agriculture research activities in U.S. higher education towards fostering information services that will support those endeavors. As the report highlights, agriculture is a particularly compelling field because of its broad scope and wider societal relevance, which leads to questions about how research insights will be shared with and lead to benefits for the public-at-large.

Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Agriculture Scholars is the culmination of a collaborative project sponsored by the United States Agricultural Information Network (USAIN) and CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) in partnership with nineteen institutions offering agricultural research services in the U.S.  Each participating institution created a local research team, and, following a two-day training session convened by Ithaka S+R, conducted research with agriculture scholars at their own institutions. These teams wrote reports on their local findings, and the publically available reports are listed below. In addition to the local reports, Ithaka S+R created the capstone report that is being launched today. The report is based on a sample of data collected across the participating institutions and provides a comprehensive perspective on evolving agriculture research support needs across the U.S.

Among the findings, the report highlights that an ongoing concern in agriculture research is how to effectively communicate the value of this research to the wider public. Reflecting the centrality of agriculture to the U.S. land-grant mission first established by the Morrill Acts, the majority of scholars interviewed in the project are affiliated with public universities. Outreach to the public is a key component of the land-grant mission, which is primarily enacted through extension programs. While we included researchers involved with extension in the sample for the capstone report, what was particularly striking was to hear about the issue of public outreach from scholars with no such mandate. Agriculture scholars are generally concerned that the public does not perceive agriculture research as valuable and recognize the importance of creating channels to communicate the value and insights of agriculture research to the public. Yet, those not affiliated with extension must exist in an academic system that exclusively trains and rewards scholars to produce academic outputs. The challenge of communicating the value of agriculture research to the general public is further exacerbated by dwindling federal support for extension programs and the need for new communications strategies beyond traditional extension models.

For this reason, within the report’s recommendations section, we point to the need for best practices and infrastructures that help effectively communicate agriculture research to the public. Agriculture scholars are aware of and concerned by low public awareness of agriculture research and agriculture more broadly, however, they are not in a structural position to improve public awareness on their own. Digital media platforms and social networking have the potential to strengthen public communication channels and scholars need considerable support to translate their work through these mediums. These insights, coupled with the report’s other findings and recommendations pertaining to information discovery and access, data management, and, audiences, outputs and credit, point to ways in which research support services can be designed in ways that carefully attend to the needs of agriculture scholars.

Institutional Reports

Andrews, Camille; Young, Sarah; Ochs, Mary; Shea, Ashley; Morris-Knower; Jim. “Final Report: Research Practices and Support Needs of Scholars in the Field of Agriculture at Cornell University.” Cornell University, 2016. https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/45090

Callahan, Beth; McManus, Alesia; Glennie, Charlotte. “Research Support Services: Agriculture.” University of California, Davis, 2016. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/7qr1h8ws

Chang, Hui-Fen and Milligan, Sarah. “ITHAKA S&R research report services: Prospectus for the field of agriculture: Oklahoma State University Library local report.” University of Oklahoma, 2016, https://shareok.org/handle/11244/47160

Delserone, Leslie M. and Dinkelman, Andrea L. “Investigating the Practices and Needs of Agricultural Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.” University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2016. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libraryscience/341

Farrell, Shannon L. and Kocher, Megan. “Examining the Research Practices of Agricultural Scholars at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.” University of Minnesota, 2016. http://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/183471

Haugen, Inga. “17 Interviews with Virginia Tech CALS Faculty: State of Research and How Information Professionals Can Help.” Virginia Tech, 2016. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/73585

Jenda, Claudine Arnold. “Research Practices and Support Services in Agriculture at Auburn University.” Auburn University, 2016. http://hdl.handle.net/11200/48808

McMurry, Nan and Holdsworth, Liz. “Research Support Services for Agriculture.” University of Georgia, 2017. http://athenaeum.libs.uga.edu/xmlui/handle/10724/36545

Mills, Carolyn V. and Giovenale, Sharon. “Research Support Study: Agriculture; University of Connecticut Local Report.” (2016). University of Connecticut, 2016, http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/libr_pubs/57

Olsen, Livia M.S. and Farmer, Diana. “Research Support Services: Agriculture.” Kansas State University, 2016. http://hdl.handle.net/2097/34585

Parker-Gibson, Necia T. and Houpert, Marei U. “Research Support Services for the Field of Agriculture: Semi-structured Interviews.” University of Arkansas, 2016. http://uark.libguides.com/c.php?g=589516

Rempel, Hannah Gascho and Robertshaw, M. Brooke. “Supporting the Research Practices of Agricultural Scientists: Oregon State University’s Ithaka Report.” Oregon State University, 2016. http://hdl.handle.net/1957/59997

Sheffield, Megan. “Research Support Services in Agriculture.” Clemson University, 2016, http://tigerprints.clemson.edu/lib_pubs/131/

Stapleton, Suzanne; Minson, Valrie; Spears, Laura. “Investigating the Needs of Agriculture Scholars: Findings from the University of Florida.” University of Florida, 2016. http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00009135/00001

Williams, Sarah C. and Kerby, Erin E. “Ithaka S+R Agriculture Research Support Services Study: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Report.” University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2016. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/94839

Yatcilla, Jane and Stowell Bracke, Marianne. “Investigating the Needs of Agriculture Scholars: The Purdue Report for Ithaka S+R.” Purdue University, 2016. http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/lib_fsdocs/165/

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