ACDC News – Issue 04-02

Who provided financial support for that research?  

Americans would like to know the corporate connections of scientists quoted in news media, according to a national survey commissioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

“According to the telephone poll of 1,026 randomly selected adults, 74 percent think reporters should disclose whether university scientists quoted in articles receive funding from companies that have a financial stake in the topic at hand.”

Reference: On the “Database Search” page of this ACDC web site, use a title search (Poll: science and money) for the full citation. A summary of survey results was posted online at:

Also – on disclosing the financial ties of authors in scientific journals  

Some scientists have sent letters to hundreds of such journals urging them to strengthen their policies on disclosure of “potentially biasing conflicts of interest.” Concerns expressed in two CSPI releases (below) that we have added recently to the ACDC collection involve topics such as agricultural biotechnology, pesticides, intellectual property policies, chemical pollution, drugs and diseases.

“Scientists call on journals to disclose authors’ conflicts of interest:”

“Journal editors urged to disclose conflicts of interest:”

Brock Center for Agricultural Communication featured  

A recent article in The Tribune (San Luis Obispo, California) featured this center at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. The center, funded largely by a trust established by Cal Poly alumnus Jim Brock, helps create a bridge of communication between the agricultural industry, the media and the public. By giving hands-on experience to about 50 students a year, it also helps future agricultural communicators learn how to report agricultural news, take photos, work on special projects and coordinate events. In the article, Director J. Scott Vernon described how effective communicating serves the agricultural economy of California

Reference: Use a title search (California center gives students) or author search (Stevens) for the full citation.

Agriculture not on the radar chart of concerns in the U.S. public mind  

At least, not for a national sample of U.S. voters asked to identify the “number one problem facing this part of the country today.” (September 2003) Less than one-half of one percent cited agriculture, farming and ranching as the number one problem. Higher on their lists: economy (25 percent), unemployment (9 percent), jobs (8 percent) and at least 22 other problems.

Reference: Use a title search (Battleground 2004 Survey) for the full citation. Let us know if you are interested in details and do not have local access to the survey report.

Trends in food advertising claims  

Researcher Pauline Ippolito examined that matter by analyzing the types of health- and nutrition-related claims made in food advertising in U.S. magazines during a 20-year period. Her content analysis involved more than 11,000 advertisements that appeared between 1977 and 1997 in eight magazines. She analyzed findings in the context of changing Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for the use of terms such as “healthy.” Among the findings of her study:

“The share of food ads with “Healthy/Smart/Good For You” appeals fell by nearly 50 percent, compared with the level before a revised FDA standard was proposed.

Reference: Use a title search (Asymmetric information in product markets) or author search (Ippolito) for the full citation.

No such thing as the public opinion about biotechnology  

Despite “a strong and natural desire for simplified summaries,” Baruch Fischhoff and Ilya Fischhoff have provided an insightful caution about doing so. In an article that we have added to the ACDC collection, they summarized attitude studies and came up with these suggestions:”

  • People distinguish among biotechnologies.
  • Different people have different views about biotechnologies.
  • People have limited knowledge about biotechnologies – and know it.
  • People have strong opinions about how biotechnologies are managed.
  • People have complex evaluative schemes – and respond to evidence.

These insights hold direct implications for professional communicators in their approach to planning communications programs related to biotechnology.

Reference:  Use a title search (Opinions about biotechnologies) or author search (Fischhoff) for the full citation. The article was posted online at: www.agbioforum (V. 4, No. 3-4).

Can information and communication technologies be pro-poor?  

Authors of a recent article in Telecommunications Policy answered their own question with a “No,” based on 20 years of cross-country evidence. They reported, “…historically, telecommunications rollout has had a positive and significant impact on increasing inequality and little impact on quality of life variables.” Their analysis provided preliminary confirmation that rollout has historically only benefited the wealthy. In addition, they cited emerging evidence that the Internet “also will be a force for income divergence.”

Reference: Use a title search (Can information) or author search (Forestier) for the full citation.

Professional activity approaching:

February 6-7, 2004
“Bioscience communications in agriculture and food.”  ECOD-BIO workshop in Ghent, Belgium, for European bioscience communicators.
Information: E-mail Jonas De Backer at

February 14-18, 2004
Agricultural Communications Section of Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS) meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

March 5-6, 2004
“The business of communication.” Regional Conference of Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

March 12-19, 2004
World Congress of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists in South Africa. The Congress starts in the north (Mabalingwe Nature Reserve) and ends south in Cape Town.

“The most effective risk communication tools.”  

Researchers Sarah Wakefield and Susan Elliott explored the role of local information systems in communicating about environmental risks. Their findings, reported in Professional Geographer, revealed newspapers to be an inconsistent tool, especially in terms of helping citizens participate in environmental decision making. However, residents surveyed in the study reported that they consider face-to-face communicating with friends, neighbors and officials at public meetings as most credible

Authors concluded, “In the last analysis, then, people – not print – are the most effective risk communication tools.”

Reference: Use a title search (Constructing the news) or author search (Wakefield) for the full citation.

A lesson in crisis communicating.  

We close this issue of ACDC News with a lesson in crisis communications, as related to food. It comes from The Farm That Blew Away, a book by Australian author Wilbur G. Howcroft:

A crusty old chap from Mirboo
Found a whopping big frog in his stew.
Said the waiter, “Don’t shout
And don’t wave it about
Or the others will all want one too.”

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. Send

  • hard copies to:
    Ag Com Documentation Center
    510 LIAC Library
    1101 S. Goodwin Avenue
    Urbana, IL 61801
  • or electronic copies to:

January 2004

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