ACDC News – Issue 02-01

It’s bad. Could it happen? We don’t know that it can’t. 

That’s a common format for media coverage of food safety issues, according to a commentary in Writer Dan Murphy said that even in the aftermath of 9/11 the media are still lured “to explore yet more concerns about the alleged dangers Americans face – not on the battlefield, but at the breakfast and dinner tables.” He pointed to speculative media reporting on potential problems about mad cow disease, biotechnology, irradiation, foot-and-mouth disease “and a host of other issues on the horizon.” Examples from Wall Street Journal and the “West Wing” television series came into his line of fire.

Reference: Use a title search (“Media still the fear factor”) or author search (Murphy) for the full citation.Archived (November 30, 2001) at:

Europeans say journalists lack appropriate background. 

More than one-half (53.3 percent) of those questioned in a recent Eurobarometer said they believe that most journalists dealing with scientific topics do not have the appropriate background or training to do so. Other responses to this survey among 16,029 Europeans in all member states of the European Union indicated that two-thirds feel they are not well informed about science and technology. Findings such as these underscore the importance of professional communicators that understand the complex food/agriculture/natural resource interests of our societies.

Reference: Use a title search (“Europeans, science and technology”) for the full citation. Full report posted at:

“Can you tell me exactly what a person that works in ag communication does?” 

The question came to us recently from a college student who was preparing to give a presentation for her final examination in a college class. It’s a good question – and one not easy to answer, given the many kinds of work in which agricultural communicators are involved these days. The answer would have been simpler even a few years ago.

We responded to the student’s question, as requested. Our reply included suggestions about how she might use the ACDC web site to gather various kinds of career information.

Do you have suggestions about what to tell this student and others that ask? Do you know of useful descriptions of the work of agricultural communicators?

If so, please forward them to us at

A digital gender divide. 

A recent article in Development journal examined what the author describes as a digital gender divide. Susanne Hamm wrote that “access by women to the Internet is far less open than access by men.” She cited a 1999 United Nations study showing contrasting levels of Internet access by women in the Arab states (4%), China (7%), Russia (16%), Japan and South Africa (17%) and the United States (38%).

Reference: Use a title search (“Information communications technologies”) or author search (Hamm) for the full citation.

The blind chicken problem: untangling numbers from beliefs. 

Last month a National Public Radio (U.S.) program described an animal welfare dilemma. Paul Thompson, philosophy professor at Purdue University, posed it as a “real philosophical conundrum.” He described a strain of chickens that are blind. They don’t mind being crowded, so one could suggest using those birds in confinement systems. “If you think that it’s the welfare of the individual animal that really matters here.then it would be more humane to have these blind chickens. On the other hand, almost everyone that you ask thinks that this is an absolutely horrendous thing to do.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Debate over genetically altered”) or author search (National Public Radio) for the full citation. Archived at:

“Of polls and loaded questions.” 

A commentary from Americans for Medical Progress (AMP) described differing responses to public surveys about the use of animals for research. Two examples cited:

  1. “56 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to donate to a health charity that had a policy against conducting or paying for animal experiments than they would to a charity that did not have such a policy.”
  2. “When asked ‘Do you believe the use of animals in medical research is necessary for progress in medicine?’ 71% of the respondents in a 1998 poll said ‘yes’.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Of polls and loaded questions”) for the full citation. Posted online at:

Mega-websites – poor models for supporting development? 

Researchers Joel Samoff and Nelly P. Stromquist raised this question in their analysis of the role that large research databases can play in national development. They wrote recently in a Development and Change article:

“In practice, distilled digested mini-facts disseminated electronically risk perpetuating rather than reducing dependence. A banking model of knowledge and knowledge sharing stymies learning because it undermines and devalues learners’ initiative and responsibility. . Problem-solvers must be directly involved in generating the knowledge they require.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Managing knowledge and storing wisdom”) or author search (Samoff) for the full citation.

Rethinking action research. 

Ruth Beilin and Lucia Boxelaar, University of Melbourne, Australia, recently presented a thoughtful analysis of connections between theory and extension practice. They hypothesized that “action research is popular among extension practitioners because it offers.democratic research opportunities. However, at times this has led to the neglect of theory.” Authors examined ways in which theoretical perspectives such as those offered in cultural studies and critical theory can be tools that strengthen participatory approaches.

Reference: Use a title search (“Rethinking action research”) or author search (Beilin) for the full citation. Posted at

Development-related books added recently. 

Two books identified recently for the ACDC collection may serve those interested in communications aspects of agricultural and rural development.

Subhash Bhatnagar and Robert Schware (eds.), Information and communication technology in development: cases from India. Sage Publications, New Delhi, India. 2000. 230 pages.

Srinivas R. Melkote and Sandhya Rao (eds.), Critical issues in communication: looking inward for answers. Essays in honor of K.E. Eapen. Sage Publications, New Delhi, India. 2001. 491 pages.

Professional meeting approaching.

February 2-6, 2002
Agricultural Communications Section of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) convention, Orlando, Florida.

Past the 19,000-document mark. 

Recent days brought not only a new year, but also a new milestone in the Center. It is a pleasure to report that this collection now includes more than 19,000 documents about the communications aspects of agriculture (broadly defined) throughout the world. All documents can be identified through online searching. All are available. Now we head toward the 20,000 mark — and welcome your help.

Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions and ideas for ACDC. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents that we might add to this unique collection. We welcome them in hard copy (sent to Ag Com Documentation Center, 69 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801) or electronic form (

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