The Alltech Feeding Times Issue 36 - Winter 2021 Winter 2021 - Page 4

MAKING AGRI-FOOD SCIENCE MORE PALATABLE FOR CONSUMERS

The following is an edited transcript of the Ag Future podcast episode , hosted by Tom Martin , featuring Dr . Anne Koontz . Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify .
As an Alltech research scientist , Dr . Anne Koontz lives out her passion for science communication , outreach and international collaboration by helping farmers become more sustainable and efficient . She joined the Ag Future podcast to discuss supporting farmers through more effective communication with those outside of the industry .

So , do people today understand the realities of scientific inquiry ? Can science kind of be boiled down to recognizing that the more we know , the more we know we don ’ t know ?

That is a fairly accurate statement . The important thing to remember about science — and one of the things that ’ s really hard for people who don ’ t work in a scientific field — is that science is constantly changing and updating itself , whether we ’ re finding new ways to ask a question or new ways to measure response . We ’ re adding to that knowledge base constantly and reevaluating what we know . I have a very good friend who ’ s a brilliant scientist in her own right — Elizabeth Culprice — who wrote on Facebook not long ago . I have to quote this because it was just so perfect for this conversation . She said , “ Perhaps the greatest utterance of the scientist is , ‘ I don ’ t know .’ Scientists never know . But upon seeing what we don ’ t know , our next thought is , ‘ How can I figure it out ? How can I get closer to knowing ?’ Formatting the known , creating a testable guess to what we think it could be , and testing it , and moving closer to one step of knowing is what we do .” And I couldn ’ t say it any better than she did of what scientists do and how important it is to understand that science is all about not knowing and wanting to know what we don ’ t know .
So , I guess we should filter through that : When we hear that there has been a scientific discovery or finding , we should think , “ Yeah , that ’ s true , but it could change in the future as more scientific inquiry is conducted .”
That ’ s absolutely correct , Tom . And I think the other aspect that ’ s important , when we have these kind of conversations and we talk about science communication and science outreach , is the idea that we often have to simplify things . The way that I would explain gravity to , you know , my 8-year-old niece is very different than the way that I would discuss gravity with another scientist . So , it is a new onset of understanding that comes as we increase things . One of my favorite things comes from “ The Science of Discworld ” by Terry Pratchett . He said that these sorts of simplification are simply lies we tell children , and they ’ re “ okay ” types of lies , because it ’ s the only way that people at that age can understand that concept , but we need to be teaching those simplifications that are constantly reminding people that , as you get older and as you build more knowledge and more understanding , those concepts will become more and more complex .
Well , Anne , I know that you think a lot about science communication , and I ’ d like to turn to that with regard to the farm . I ’ m wondering : How have digital media , a broader connection and social media changed the way farmers communicate what they ’ re doing ?
I think it has fundamentally changed the way farmers communicate with the greater audience around them . The ability to go direct to the world and say , “ Look , this is my farm ; this is what I ’ m doing today ; here , let me walk you through my barn or take a ride on my tractor together ,” and show both the good and the bad of farming is really important . These farmers that are willing to do this , this type of communication , are really letting everyone into their everyday lives and showing the good , showing the bad , showing the frustrations and the excitement that comes with farming , and are making an
4 THE FEEDING TIMES