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Media Coverage: KIS and Tell (January 2008)

This article was featured in the January 2008 issue of AgKnowledge, a magazine produced by the College of Agriculture and Bioresources

A new blog discussing the future of agriculture in Saskatchewan has recently made its appearance on www.illativeblog.ca, thanks to the work of the U of S's Knowledge impact in Society (KIS) group.

Launched in November, The Illative Blog features a weekly short essay speculating on a facet of agriculture's future and inviting readers from every walk of life to respond. For example, the site's first essay by U of S Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics Professor Richard Gray asks a series of questions on the future of agricultural research in Canada, including:

"If R&D expenditures have fallen because of a perceived gloomy future for agriculture, will high-income growth, increased biofuel production and growing environmental concerns stimulate the demand for the creation and adoption of new technologies?" and "Will a lack of access to technology and a lack of freedom to operate continue to slow the rate of innovation, or can the institutions that govern agricultural research be modified as part of the national innovation strategy?"

One of 11 such projects across Canada, the KIS initiatives aims to improve the flow of information between Saskatchewan's agriculture sector, rural communities, governments and academia, says Agriculture and Bioresources Professor Murray Fulton, who leads the Saskatchewan KIS project.

He notes the three-year $600,000 initiative is funded by the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's (SSHRC) knowledge transfer program and the University of Saskatchewan.

"SSHRC usually funds conventional research in the social sciences field, but this project is a bit of a departure for them. Their focus in this case is to look at how we get research from the university out into the community, and from there how we get the community to feed back tot the university. In the old days, they would have called this ‘extension' but today we call it knowledge transfer."

The blog was preceded by another knowledge transfer program in April 2007: Ag 2020: What's Your Vision? Asked participants to imagine themselves in the year 2020 and to speculate on what the industry might be like at that time (the resulting twelve essays from Saskatchewan academics and industry researchers are posted on the www.kis.usask.ca site.)

"And in early June 2007, we held a conference entitled Food & Fuel: The Implications for Agricultural Research Policy," adds Fulton. "We used the hot topic of ethanol to lead into amore general discussion of agricultural research policy, which truly is the underpinning of the industry."

Future projects for the KIS initiative include another conference in late 2008 to debate the rise and fall of agricultural co-operatives in Canada and the United States. "It's an interesting topic for discussion because co-ops were once such a large part of the landscape of agriculture in the two countries – then, within a few years, they literally disappeared in both regions," notes Fulton.

And for those purely curious as to the origin of the KIS blog's name – what the heck does ‘illative' mean, anyway? – Fulton says that it has to do with making inference. "Inference is interesting because it is one of the few ways that we can "see" into the future," he notes. To see how inference fits with a ladder, he suggests people visit the site at www.illativeblog.ca.

"The more discussion and debate we can generate, the more we can envision and prepare for the future of agricultural research in this country."

 

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