Thursday, August 15, 2019

This is How We Do It: Learn About CAST's Work

In honor of National Nonprofit Day (August 17), we are sharing how CAST operates in order to fulfill our mission.

CAST is a designated 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which means we rely on charitable contributions from our supporters and members (along with grants) to accomplish our work. Without that support, we wouldn’t get very far. 

What We Do
CAST focuses on communicating research 
addressing some of today’s challenges in agriculture and food sciences. 

We synthesize credible studies to provide a balanced, comprehensive look at the challenges and recommendations that are part of topics such as food waste, animal ethics, gene technology, food labeling and so much more. 

Communicating science is part of our mission, which has remained largely unchanged since CAST came into being nearly 50 years ago. 

How We Do It
Our authors--experts and researchers in industry and academia who specialize in our paper topics--volunteer their time to write, edit, fact-check, peer review, and find funding to ensure these publications can reach our audiences--legislators, the media, farmers, students, and anyone interested or impacted by the topics we cover. We want to provide credible, balanced resources to aid the decision-making process for complex issues.

We want to provide these publications for as long as possible and remain a reliable source for those who look to CAST as a non-affiliated authority on agricultural and food science issues. 

3 Things You Can Do
Whether you're a member or just interested in staying in the loop, we have a few ways you can be more involved with CAST:

  1. Use our free reports, issue papers, and commentaries to spread awareness and information about agricultural issues. 
  2. If you think others would benefit from our publications, share our information with them. Follow us (@CASTagScience) on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop about our upcoming publications and announcements. 
  3. If you really like us and believe in what we do, please donate or become a member--we have a lot of options. And your contribution may qualify as a tax-deductible gift!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

CAST Announces Science Communication Scholarship

In 2018, we launched the first CAST Science Communication Scholarship*. This year, we’re getting more hands on.

We’re encouraging graduate students at the University of Arkansas to show us how they want to communicate their research to audiences outside their research community. By creating a 90-second video or podcast, or an infographic, students will creatively convey an exciting component of their research. 

After students submit their work, a panel of judges will provide feedback to the students to help strengthen their science communication strategy. Selected students are invited to the CAST Annual Meeting, held at the University of Arkansas, to network with like-minded scientists from across the nation, as well as participate in the sessions focused around trends in agriculture and communicating important ag-related issues.

Selected students will also receive a stipend as part of the scholarship and have their work displayed on CAST’s social media pages.

If you are a graduate student at the University of Arkansas:
Check out the application process, resources, and other useful information in our Google folder.

If you know a graduate student at the University of Arkansas:
Send the scholarship information along:’d love your help spreading the word and getting in touch with the next generation of science communicators.

2018 Scholarship Winners
Five students from the University of California Davis received the scholarship and attended our annual meeting held at the UC-Davis campus. You can read why they believe science communication, especially in their research areas, is important to them below.

Maci Mueller -- Gene editing in livestock production systems
Mackenzie Batali -- Food science, specifically coffee sensory research
Sarah Klopatek -- Beef sustainability 
Alonna Wright -- Microbial communities within crop soils
Rylie Ellison -- Agricultural and environmental chemistry

*CAST rotates its scholarship eligibility based on the location of its annual meeting. As the scholarship grows, we hope to include and support more students, regardless of the location of our annual meeting.

Friday, August 9, 2019

4 CAST Publications to Watch for This Fall

We are very pleased to share that we are working to finalize four papers for release this fall. 

All of these papers are the culmination of work by various task forces that are comprised of scientists, engineers, legal scholars, economists, sociologists, and other subject-matter specialists who generously contribute their time, energy, and expertise to help us assemble, interpret, and communicate balanced, credible, science-based information about food and agriculture. 
The titles and expected release dates of these new CAST papers:

September 2019:  Protecting Food Animal Gene Pools for Future Generations--A Series on The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050

October 2019:  Interpreting Agricultural Chemical Residues Measured in Food or Milk

November 2019:  Impact of Recruitment and Retention of Food Animal Veterinarians on the U.S. Food Supply

November or December 2019:  The Microbiome's Positive Impacts on Crops

From Kent Scheske, CAST Executive Vice President

Share Your Ideas With Us!
We want to hear what agricultural, food, or environmental issues matter most to you. If you have ideas for future publications, let us know! Your ideas might end up as the basis for a future CAST publication. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Agvocates Play Important Role on Social Media

Agvocates. Ever heard of the term? 

It’s the name many agricultural advocates (get it?) give themselves to describe what they do--support and champion for agriculture. Anyone can be an agvocate: farmers, agronomists, animal scientists, 4-H students, nonprofit organizations, Grandma Beth, Uncle Joe. All you need is a passion for agriculture--and maybe a social media account.

Some studies suggest social media is one of the best places to connect with people who share similar values, especially when it comes to emotive topics (i.e., topics that generate strong feelings and, I would add, are often spun as controversial). That’s why so many agvocates are actively involved on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram--even TikTok. They want to have a conversation and raise awareness about the facts, challenges, initiatives, or research in the field.

Let’s look at an example...
Many people eat meat and other animal products, but there is a lot of tension around their welfare. The topic especially becomes amplified when news breaks about the mistreatment of animals

Since most of what we see is the end product of animal agriculture (e.g., milk, meat, bone broth, etc.), we’re mostly left in the dark about how they’re treated unless we are directly working with them. We have an idea of what the animal went through for us to enjoy that end product, but when we read about actions (e.g., abuse) that violate our norms, our feelings intensify and we react negatively. This is when an agvocate's role matters most. 
Brandi Buzzard Frobose, a.k.a. Buzzard's Beat,
regularly weighs in on heated topics in the news,
bringing in her own knowledge and experience
 to explain what's going on.

Agvocates have the ability in that moment to insert their voice and experience into the conversation and influence the reactions of those who feel society’s norms have been violated. As Stevens, Aarts, Termeer, and Dewulf (2016) put it: 

“Social media offer a stage for all actors involved, such as farmers, citizens, consumers, politicians, and experts to engage in the conversation and voice their opinion.” 
This, in turn, generates more news and diffuses insight to a larger audience through social engagement with the agvocate’s content.

Of course, social media creates echo chambers in which individuals use their personalized space to reinforce their group’s norms. And sometimes this can turn out for the worst. 

But there is evidence that argues social media allows for an understanding of someone else’s life that would otherwise not be accessible to them. Studies focused on social media’s influence on empathy and perspective taking suggest younger people, such as adolescents, are able to understand and share emotions of those they follow on social media. And the type of content shared may invoke varying responses to how we perceive ourselves. In other words, staying connected might help us develop empathic skills.

This is why agvocacy matters--building relationships with people who are interested (even for a moment) that you could not otherwise reach may help build empathic skills. 

The takeaway: Agvocates, keep doing your thing. 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Student Member Spotlight Q&A: Hannah

Our members are the lifeblood of our organization. They are students, farmers, researchers, department heads, industry experts, food scientists, agronomists--the list goes on. No matter their background, we all have the same wish: to assemble, create and share credible, balanced, science-based information. 

Read about who makes up CAST in our Member Spotlight series. In this post, you will meet  Hannah, a recent graduate and CAST student member.

Meet Hannah
A 2019 Iowa State University graduate who received a Bachelor of Science in global resource systems, environmental studies, and Spanish.

What agricultural issues are most important to you?
The top two agricultural issues that are most important to me are international trade policies and climate change effects on crop growth, yield, and revenue. 

How did you hear about CAST?
When I was a student at Iowa State, I was a member of the club IAAS (International Association of Agriculture and Related Sciences), and a CAST representative spoke at one of our meetings. He encouraged us to apply and become student members. 

Why did you decide to join CAST?
I decided to join CAST as a student because it allowed me to develop a perspective on professional societies and understand their importance to society, especially after undergrad graduation when most people lose access to academic resources.

What role does CAST play in our society?
Communicating agricultural sciences to interested professionals, students, and the general public. CAST helps our communities have access to important and credible research and news. CAST allows student members, young professionals, and experienced researchers to stay involved and up to date.

Thank you, Hannah, for sharing your story and supporting CAST!

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Member Spotlight series.

(Photo courtesy of Hannah)