Mining the Land-grant Knowledge Network

Woman thinking about a networkWho in Cooperative Extension is working on the Zika virus? Who is working on water quality or drought mitigation? Who is solving problems of food deserts? What resources are used to support these Extension programs? What can educators and researchers learn from others who are working in similar areas? How is research intertwined in these programs?

Cooperative Extension professionals and Extension’s federal partners ask similar questions – and it’s not always easy or swift to answer these questions beyond state and regional boundaries. Having access to other programs, resources, and the people who are successful in creating and conducting Extension programs could hasten Extension’s national progress by sparking and accelerating the spread of innovation within the system.

Currently, we are working on a Knowledge Network to link Land-Grant University researchers and Cooperative Extension educators, their work, and their resources. The network directory will assist USDA, Extension and Land-Grant professionals, educators, and researchers to discover and connect with each other, resources, and programs. It will highlight and link to key Extension system assets (e.g. people, white papers, journal articles, courses, presentations, posters, data, toolkits, and decision making tools).

A goal is a more connected Cooperative Extension workforce that is able to constructively participate in and facilitate in online and offline conversations that lead to personal and professional learning and to better local programming. There is no need for a central unit to host the work of the system but rather a system that enables discovery of Extension work by smartly linking to the work through an easy-to-use mobile interface. Our first pilot will include an e-book interface.

We are collaborating with Matthew Lange of IC3-FOODS of the University of California to develop an ontology(ies) creating a common language so topics can be sorted and discovered much like the way libraries use keywords to describe books and journal articles. Potentially, for any given program, a national presence can be built and Extension educators and others can generatively build their programs.

Jeff Piestrak investigative fellowship provided a vision of a land grant knowledge network to serve as a useful national resource. The development of a knowledge network is also informed by Christian Schmieder’s and Justin Smith’s eXtension Fellowships. Christian demonstrated ways to analyze large quantities of Extension impact data. Justin is testing and demonstrating protocols, making eXtension and Extension information more open, accessible and linked to open research and data.

Our goal is to have a proof of concept of this knowledge network before the end of 2017.  We will demonstrate the possibilities of connecting a varied and distributed body of data and information resources and expertise, including presentations, formal and informal articles and online dialogues, and resource articles. Our first demonstration project will support the Food Systems Impact Collaborative.

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Graphic is taken from Pixabay (public domain)