From Science to Success – An Introduction

By: Rebecca Power
The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant institutions of higher education in the United States. The purpose of these institutions was and is, “without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established cooperative extension services as mechanisms to expand access to the resources of the land-grants even further.

Many scholars have established that the intent of those behind the land-grant movement was to improve the quality of life for working class citizens in rural America, largely related to the professions of farming and homemaking as well as becoming more informed and engaged participants in our young democracy. The science generated at the time was rarely an end unto itself. It helped people grow more corn, cotton, and cattle and keep sufficient and safe food on the table.

Land-grant institutions continue to carry this mission forward. However, new knowledge is generated at head-spinning speed, making it harder to keep up with the job of translating science to practice.  This challenge is not unique to water resource management.  An article published in the journal Nature in 2008 about the “valley of death” that exists between biomedical research and medical treatments for patients is still relevant in medicine, and it is certainly relevant for many aspects of water resource management.

The North Central Region Water Network’s spring conference (March 21-23, 2016) will provide some compelling food for thought on this topic, as well as time for us to work together on ways to move from science to success on high priority water-related topics such as stormwater management, climate change, irrigation management, drainage water management, and science and civic engagement for youth.

A recently published paper by Michael Dahlstrom (Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds light on one facet of the science to success conversation. He helps us consider how scientists and educators can effectively and ethically incorporate narratives and storytelling into our communication and educational programs.

Dahlstrom’s piece is just a taste of the ideas that can help us continue to fulfill the promise of the land-grant mission by translating science for those that can benefit from it.  Have your own ideas or resources? Please post them in the comments section of this article on our Network blog.

And two other important items:
  • For all you Extension folks out there, remember that the North Central Region Water Network’s second 2015 Request for Applications is waiting for you! $100,000 in seed funding available. Applications due August 14, 2015!
  • SAVE THE DATE! The North Central Region Water Network’s second conference and regional working session will be March 21-23, 2016 in Lincoln, NE.  Theme: “From Science To Success. More details coming soon!


Rebecca Power, Network Director