Mission-Oriented Outreach: Information & Examples

May 31, 2013 Debra Cheung

Agricultural Experiment Station Outreach
University of California, Davis
Revised March 2006

Many faculty in the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (CA&ES) and the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) hold fiscal-year appointments split between the Instruction & Research (I&R) and Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) components of the University. Since 1995, faculty (which now number approximately 100 individuals in CA&ES and CBS) have been hired into fiscal-year term (FYT) appointments in which the base appointment is an academic year (9 month) which is extended to a fiscal year (11 month) appointment for a fixed term; hence the designation “fiscal year term appointment.”  Upon hiring, each candidate signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which details the terms of the FYT appointment and the AES expectations. These appointments are subject to periodic review to determine whether the fiscal year term appointment will be renewed.  If not, the position reverts to the standard academic year appointment.

In November 2002, the Chancellor designated the AES Associate Director as "responsible for conducting reviews of the AES component of faculty holding FYT appointments."  In the first three rounds of review, concerns were raised by the Term Appointment Review Committee (TARC) about the AES mission-oriented outreach activities for a number of faculty members.  The FYT appointment for each of these faculty members was renewed, but they also were required to submit a "brief mid-term update and progress report on [their] successes at identifying and connecting with appropriate outreach clientele …"  Therefore FYT appointees are advised that documenting satisfactory outreach activity will be important for future renewal of the FYT appointment.

Faculty outreach in general is attracting increased interest. For example, the National Science Foundation requires that grantees address the "broader impacts" of their proposed research, including evidence for broad dissemination of results and benefits to society. Likewise, the UC-Davis Strategic Plan lists faculty "engagement" as one of three goals, along with "learning" and "discovery." Future evaluation of academic units will include reviews of progress toward these goals. Thus, faculty documentation of AES mission-oriented outreach activities can help to satisfy expectations in arenas beyond the AES per se.

Faculty performance in the AES is evaluated in accordance with the Academic Personnel Manual, section UCD-320, Appointment and promotion of agronomists in the AES series. UCD-320 includes Exhibit A, Evaluating split appointments: Agronomist (_____ in the Agricultural Experiment Station) with a professorial title. Excerpts are presented in the attached Appendix A.

The AES outreach plan presented here outlines some of the ways in which faculty can fulfill and document their AES mission-oriented outreach obligations. It is anticipated that individual faculty members will participate in a wide variety of mission-oriented outreach activities that are not specifically mentioned in this document. (NOTE: Several phrases below have been excerpted or paraphrased from UCD-320.)

Individual Mission-Oriented Research and Outreach Plans (Hatch and Animal Health Proposals)

An individual's AES mission-oriented research is described in his or her AES project, which is subject to review and renewal every five years. The review process for AES projects is initiated within a faculty member’s home department/section.  After proposals are approved by department/section chairs, they are forwarded to the office of the Associate Director of the AES where they undergo centralized review.  As proposals are approved, they are forwarded to the AES Director’s office in Oakland (the UC Division of Agricultural and Natural Resources) for co-signing and transmittal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for final approval. A faculty member’s AES project serves as a basis for evaluating progress and accomplishments with regard to the AES.

While not a federal requirement, UC Davis faculty are required to include an outreach plan in the AES project proposal, in addition to the standard research plan. These two plans serve as the approved, documented standard against which research and outreach accomplishments can be evaluated.

Identifying Clientele and Stakeholders

Land grant universities are accountable to clientele, many of whom also serve as stakeholders. The Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension provide major conduits by which universities fulfill this mission. Clientele comprises "the clients of a professional person taken collectively," or "a body of customers or patrons," and a stakeholder has "a share or interest in an enterprise, especially a financial share."

Stakeholders include governmental agencies; organizations representing California agricultural and business interests; environmental groups; citizen groups; non-governmental organizations; and biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms. These often contract for research programs directed toward specific issues. For example, the program to study Pierce's disease of grapevine has been funded by a broad mix of governmental and nongovernmental agencies.

Therefore, mission-oriented research should meet the needs of identifiable clients. What people and processes will benefit from the mission-oriented research? The resulting outreach program will identify appropriate conduits to provide communication for the professional researcher to learn about clients' needs, and to report back the results of mission-oriented research guided by these needs.

Mission-Oriented Outreach

Outreach activities may be conducted on or off campus, but will vary by person and/or discipline. Some CA&ES and CBS faculty conduct research that is directly relevant to off-campus clientele. However, some of the mission-oriented research conducted by faculty is very basic and therefore unlikely immediately to impact practices in the field. In these cases, outreach may involve consultation or collaboration with other AES and non-AES scientists who can move fundamental research closer to a practical application. 

The primary determinant of outreach is activity that directly or indirectly delivers information to California’s citizens residing outside the confines of academia. Thus, normal teaching activities involving undergraduate or graduate students, publications in peer-reviewed journals that are targeted for an academic audience and presentations made to one’s academic colleagues at professional society meetings do not constitute outreach that is consistent with the AES mission.  A number of outreach possibilities are described in UCD-320, and additional examples are listed below.

Regardless of the exact outreach activities, it is expected that all researchers holding AES appointments will carry out research that is relevant to the mission of the UC Davis AES (see Appendix B).  Many faculty may benefit from participation in ANR Workgroups, where important research issues are identified, research collaborations can develop, and outreach activities are planned.  A list of current workgroups can be found at: http://ucanr.edu/sites/anrstaff/divisionwide_programs/workgroups/workgroup_directory/

Examples of Mission-Oriented Outreach

The examples below are excerpted from FYT renewal requests evaluated by TARC.  Each example has been edited to remove specific details that might identify a particular faculty member, and each is included here with permission from that faculty member.  Most examples of faculty outreach statements are from FYT requests that were approved by TARC, and help illustrate the range of outreach activities that are deemed appropriate to the AES mission.  The final two examples illustrate activities that were judged as not appropriate.

  • I collaborate with a California biotechnology company that is a major player in products for genotyping and gene expression analysis.  Biotechnology for agricultural research is one of several important parts of their product portfolio.  For example, this company produces gene chips for barley, soybean and wheat.  Improvements to performance of these agriculture-related biotechnology products represent a direct benefit to the stakeholder, the research community, and ultimately, the farmer.
  • Membership in a DANR Biotechnology Workgroup, participation in the Explorit Science Centers’ Corporate Science Challenge, phone consultations with members of the biotech industry on possible avenues for improving the accuracy of genetic engineering, presenting a seminar at a California biotech company, and discussions with reporters on a variety of science-related topics.
  • I have worked closely with the California Department of Fish and Game staff scientists on defining the historical and present day extent of a major California fishery.  We documented the consumption of a specific food and educated Food Stamp clients on concerns related to associated toxins.  I am also involved in a number of K-12 outreach activities that include education in public schools.  This involved running day-long science classes within the local school district.
  • During this review period, I have given 35 professional presentations and lectures at several agricultural and occupational conferences, symposia, and short courses.  There were several summaries written in industry magazines about some of the research that I have conducted.  I was co-organizer of a national conference attended by many agricultural health and safety professionals.  Lastly, I am a member of two DANR Work Groups whose foci coincide with my research program.
  • In a collaborative effort with a California biotechnology company, funded through a BioStar grant, we have proposed to generate new reagents to assay for a particular class of bioactive compounds.
  • Our work on a specific aspect of microbial physiology garnered the attention of microbiologists at a large California winery.  They were very interested in our novel application of genetic analysis to investigate the growth of laboratory strains under different nutritional conditions.  I presented our work at the winery's research laboratory, and we plan to extend our methods to the analysis of their industrial strains.
  • My primary outreach activity is the writing, testing, distribution and support of computer programs for analysis of scientific data.  Based on communication I have had with users, the clientele for these programs includes researchers at a variety of institutions in California and around the world.  To extend this outreach to the broadest possible clientele, all my software is (1) available on my web site, (2) free of charge, and (3) “open source,” meaning that the original computer source code is provided, making it easy for users to modify or adapt the programs for their own purposes.  In addition, I spend a considerable amount of time answering queries from users regarding the software and addressing their needs in subsequent versions of the code.
  • I have done interviews in local newspapers in locations where the invasive species we study pose particular threats to environmental or economic concerns.  I have also done interviews on species invasions for a number of mainstream press outlets (regional newspapers, radio, and magazines).  I work as a science advisor for a major national news show.  I have teamed with a UC extension specialist to educate boat owners about the risks that watercraft may contribute to the spread of invasive species.  I am working collaboratively to develop an educational program for coastal California residents to teach them about their local marine communities and to guide them to create and execute projects and policies aimed at protecting and restoring the area in which they live. 
  • I have presented six talks from 2000-2004 at forums that include mixed audiences of nutritionists, health professionals and the general public.  I also participated in an informal homework policy study and update group of a California school district.  I performed research and prepared a document that argued homework in elementary school should be limited in order to increase time available for exercise (play) as this may promote health and reduce childhood obesity.  The results of my research and the prepared document were widely circulated.  Although my role was minor, the school district has adopted some limits on elementary school homework.
  • I recently began working with a local water agency and a local watershed coordinating committee on the problem posed by an introduced invertebrate. The water agency is charged with caring for this source of water, and the results of our work on this problem will be of direct application in solving the problem of this invasive invertebrate.  A second way of accomplishing outreach follows from my recently joining the Conservation Biology DANR Workgroup.  My intention here is to use the workgroup to establish stronger ties with state wildlife personnel and other groups that are concerned with the demise of native species in the face of the introduced species.  My hope is that the workgroup will provide greater exposure to target groups.

Examples of Outreach Activities that do not satisfy AES expectations:

  • I have given research presentations to a lay audience of donors to a fund-raising organization with focus on a specific set of human diseases.
  • My lab has been active in undergraduate and high school education, in the form of providing a research environment where the students actively perform research at similar levels to that of graduate students.  The lab supports typically 3-5 undergraduate researchers at any given time.  Additionally, the lab usually hosts one high school student a year

Appendix A.  Excerpts from the Academic Personnel Manual

Excerpt from UCD-320-4 (Series Description)
AES projects are supported by Federal and State funds earmarked for mission-oriented research, both basic and applied, consistent with the mission of the California Agricultural Experiment Station.  The AES appointee is expected to disseminate the results of that research, sometimes but not always mediated by Cooperative Extension, to other scientists and to those who can use and benefit directly from the results.  In addition, the AES appointee is expected to provide services to the University and public and private sectors and complement University educational programs both on and off campus.  It is expected that research will be the dominant activity, providing direction to the other activities of the appointee.

Excerpt from UCD-320-10 (Criteria)

Outreach activities apply research-based expertise to identify issues and communicate solutions to people within the State or society.  As such, these activities are derivative of research productivity.  Outreach activities could include any of the following at the appointee's discretion:  interacting with officials in local, State and/or Federal governmental agencies, with private sector companies that have goals in common with the AES, and/or with Cooperative Extension (Specialists, Advisors, work groups, and programs); participating in meetings with the public; publishing articles in popular and trade/industry magazines; providing information for articles for newspapers, radio, or visual media; developing computer software; working with public or private schools; teaching University Extension courses or short courses; participating in workshops, field tours, or symposia; or other activities.

Appendix B.  Mission Statements

The present AES mission statement was adopted in June 2003.  It represents a more restricted focus for mission-oriented research than in the past.  This recognizes the reductions in AES resources that limit our research capacity, and our desire to sustain programmatic excellence in those areas that we do engage.  The mission statement declares that:

The mission of the Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) at the University of California, Davis is to conduct research that encompasses the continuum of fundamental and applied research for the purpose of developing new knowledge and technologies that address specific problems of importance to the people of California.  Key to this mission is a broad range of research focused on the discovery of solutions and the development of educational programs that disseminate knowledge and technology to an identified clientele.  The AES mission focuses on agricultural, environmental and societal issues that are impacted by, or impact upon, agriculture and the environment.

The Mission of the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences:

  • to develop students into scholars, mentors, and responsible citizens of the State of California, the United States and the world;
  • to advance, integrate, evaluate and communicate knowledge of the sciences and technologies of natural resource utilization and conservation, agriculture, food, nutrition, human development, and related environmental, health, safety and policy concerns;
  • to seek out, anticipate and lead in addressing the needs of citizens, communities and governmental agencies, particularly in California. 

The Mission of the College of Biological Sciences:

  • to develop and deliver undergraduate programs in the biological sciences of the highest possible quality.
  • to contribute significantly to graduate and postdoctoral education in the biological sciences by participating in graduate academic programs and administration.
  • to provide an environment for faculty members and students to do original and creative research in the biological sciences of the highest quality.
  • to provide service to the campus, the state of California, and the nation through committee service, outreach, and scientific leadership.

The Mission of the University of California, Davis:

Through a distinctive tradition of core-discipline excellence, interdisciplinary collaborations and productive partnerships, UC Davis teaches students to think critically, objectively and creatively and to be lifelong learners, engaged leaders and productive citizens; pursues research to advance knowledge and to address state, national and global challenges; and serves the public through the generation, broad dissemination and application of knowledge.


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