Washington, D.C. -- In these fiscally constrained times, federally-funded researchers face more pressure than ever before to show the greater societal benefits of their research. To that end, many researchers are now working in multidisciplinary teams that combine agricultural, environmental, economic, and social science research in order to better understand the economic and social benefits associated with basic scientific questions.
On Oct. 15, the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), and the Council on Food, Agricultural and Resources Economics hosted a webinar at the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) headquarters highlighting successful multidisciplinary research projects.
ASA, CSSA, and SSSA member and webinar presenter, Sieglinde Snapp, a soils and cropping systems ecologist at Michigan State University, emphasized the importance of collaboration among a wide variety of fields to address the complicated questions related to agriculture research.
“Complex, real world problems require multidisciplinary research to develop practical and relevant options for today’s farmers,” said Snapp.
NIFA national program leaders heard about the advantages, challenges, and management strategies associated with multidisciplinary research. They agreed that hearing about this type of research will help shape future NIFA Request for Applications (RFAs).
'Managing a multi- or interdisciplinary research project is not without unique challenges; however, I believe these types of investments pay off in the long-run,' said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA's NIFA. 'We face large societal challenges, and this webinar provided great examples of how we can begin to solve these challenges through innovative ways of advancing agricultural science.'
One Virginia Tech University project, funded through a Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant, clearly demonstrates how multidisciplinary projects advance scientific knowledge and provide valuable insight into economic and consumer trends.
“The collaboration between plant scientists and economists at Virginia Tech has developed new solutions to inhibit pathogens in nursery crop irrigation water and demonstrates consumers will pay more for plants grown with water conservation practices and certified as disease-free,” said Virginia Tech professor, Kevin Boyle.
Multidisciplinary projects better address the societal and economic benefits of research investments, and provide answers to real world problems.
Webinar presenters included Michigan State University professors, Sieglinde Snapp and Scott Swinton, Virginia Tech professor Kevin Boyle, and University of Maryland professor John Lea-Cox.