ACDC News – Issue 20-04

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Navigating the tricky world of MOOCs for teaching nutrition

A 2020 article in Nutrients journal shed light on complexities of teaching, learning, and communicating within the fast-growing arena of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). A team of researchers at Monash University (Australia) aimed to evaluate learner participation and perceptions in an evidence-based nutrition MOOC. Through it, they also provided recommendations for engaging international online lay audiences.

It’s not surprising to imagine the challenges course leaders faced in working with learners in 158 countries – with varied educational backgrounds.  It takes one’s breath to imagine closing the course with 3,799 qualitative comments about what students learned and preferred in course content and teaching methods.

The article title is “Promoting evidence based nutrition education across the world in a competitive space.” You can read it here.

On “social media hypes” about agro-food issues

Findings of four case studies of social media activity about agro-food issues in the Dutch livestock sector revealed that:

  • Events and controversies generated peak and selective activity on social media.
  • The activity involved a few recurrent themes in the realm of activism, scandals. and conflicts – and was judgmental.
  • Stakeholders “need to adopt a proactive and interactive approach that transcends the view of social media as a mere communication channel to respond to crisis situations.”

You can read this 2018 research article, “Social media hypes about agro-food issues: Activism, scandals and conflicts,” here. It was published in the Food Policy journal.

“Warm up the energy brain. Focus the eagle eye.”

That is the subhead of an editing quiz we have added to the ACDC collection. It involves a 25-question quiz featured at the 2019 conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISNWE). Agricultural communications students, teachers, and professionals may find it useful in learning or brushing up on the Associated Press Stylebook.  The quiz involves multiple-option questions, followed by answers. You can read it here.

Detecting fake news about environment and healthcare

A new research report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health described progress toward an automatic system for detecting dubious sources of information, fake news, baseless rumors, or gossip. Authors analyzed tweet chains and linked them in a systematic way to gain a general picture of false news and information. Cited examples involved assessing validity of tweets related to World Environment Day 2019 and news about a dead whale in a western Mediterranean port.

You can read the article here.

Early report on the “deplorable state of affairs” in assessing the effects of commodity promotion

We recently added to the ACDC collection a critique of analytic procedures used in the 1940s to evaluate effectiveness of farm product advertising and promotion.  Economist Alois F. Wolf cited examples in evaluating promotion of citrus fruit, walnuts, fluid milk, apples, potatoes, and peaches.  Among the problems identified: lack of knowledge of interrelations involved, misuse of statistical data, lack of objectivity, and lack of data interpretation.

You can read this article in the American Journal of Farm Economics, here.

Research for sustainable development needs to work faster

Bruce Currie-Alder of the Canada-based International Development Research Centre (IDRC) emphasized that need in a 2016 journal article we added recently to the ACDC collection.

“Why is it so difficult to realize sustainability in practice?” he asked. “The answer lies in the fact that universities and research centers persist with 19th century methods of data gathering, scholarly analysis, and journal articles. Today’s world needs science in real-time, whether to detect drought, confront Ebola, or assist refugees. Research needs to work faster and embrace 21st century practices including data science, open access, and infographics.”

You can read the commentary, “Silent revolution in research for sustainability,” in the Journal of Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development here.

Reminder: Welcoming your feedback and ideas

We invite you to participate in our listening survey to help us serve your interests. Participating includes answering 10 questions that will take about 10 minutes. The ACDC Coordinator will review, synthesize and keep your responses confidential. If you have any questions about the research study, please contact Janis Shearer at If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a participant please contact the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Office for the Protection of Research Subjects at 217-333-2670 or via email at

Thank you for your help. Please click here for the survey.

Communicator events approaching

Uncertainties of the COVID-19 health issue are prompting flexible event planning, as you know. Here are plans of which we are aware, with website addresses you can use to track updates.

April 23-24, 2020 (Postponed to this Fall)
100th anniversary reception celebration and spring regional workshop of AAEA – The Agricultural Communicators Network in Chicago, Illinois.


May 21-25, 2020 (virtual conference being planned)
“Open communication.” 70th annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) at Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.


June 1-3, 2020 (members to be notified by mid-April)
“Spice up your creativity.” 2020 CCA Institute of the Cooperative Communicators Association in Buffalo, New York.


June 22-25, 2020 (virtual conference being planned)
“Be inspired Chicago!” Annual conference of the Association for Communication Excellence (ACE), Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Chicago, Illinois.


June 23-25, 2020 (on-site conference being planned)
Annual conference of the Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) in Roanoke, Virginia.


June 24-28, 2020  (cancelled for 2020)
Conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors at the University of Nevada, Reno. Nevada.


June 24-29, 2020 (cancelled for 2020)
“Farming today for the society of the future.” Annual Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ) in Bredsten, Denmark.  Hosted by the Danish Food and Agricultural Journalists.


July 25-29, 2020 (on-site conference being planned)
“Ag Media Summit 2020.”  AMS is an industry-wide gathering of agricultural media and communications professionals in Kansas City, Missouri. It joins together AAEA – The Agricultural Communicators Network, Livestock Publications Council, and Connectiv Agri-Media Committee.


 August 11-13, 2020 (on-site conference rescheduled from April 15-17)
“Charting the course.” Conference of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) in Kansas City, Missouri.



“The food in this restaurant is terrible”

We close this issue of ACDC News with a well-worn joke. The response, of course, is: “Yeah, but there’s a lot of it.”  Might the joke parallel information available today when everyone has a view and a global voice regarding food, the environment, energy sources, and other issue-laden dimensions of agriculture?

Here’s to the skilled, dedicated journalists and communicators as trusted informers and mediators of complex issues they address.

Best regards and wishes during this challenging time

ACDC is a resource for you, so please feel free to invite our help as you search for information. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @ACDCUIUC. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents we might add to this unique and valuable international collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Comm Documentation Center, Room 510, 1101 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801) – or in electronic format sent to