Social Responsibility: Balancing People, Profit, and Planet
From their roots in the 1800s, land-grant universities have focused their teaching, research and outreach activities to help farmers produce low-cost, abundant, and readily available food- and the consuming public has benefited. While a safe, plentiful food supply is still a priority, agricultural scientists increasingly recognize that today's consumers are calling for safe, wholesome, and nutritious foods produced ethically, humanely, and without adversely affecting the environment.
At Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, we're heeding the call. We believe that socially responsible food and agricultural production must strike a delicate balance between people, profit, and planet. Social and natural scientists must work together to ensure that research and extension programs are comprehensive, transparent and credible to our traditional audiences, our critics, and to the public at large.
These are some of the guiding principles behind the Social Responsibility Initiative (SRI). The SRI focuses on and encourages cutting-edge research on the most pressing food, agricultural and environmental issues facing Ohio and the world, from genetically modified foods and environmental quality to urban sprawl and the globalization of agriculture.
A Longstanding Commitment
Far from being a new concept, the SRI builds on the public service mission and vision embodied in the original land-grant legislation of 1862. Our longstanding commitment to public education and research was redefined in the early 1990s when the college developed and introduced its innovative Ecological Paradigm, represented by a four-sided pyramid. The sides of the pyramid depict the college's four priority areas: production efficiency, economic viability, environmental compatibility, and social responsibility. Together, these concepts form an integrated approach to food, agriculture, and the environment with a combined strength much greater than if any one side of the pyramid stood alone.
Bridging Gaps Worldwide
Individual researchers, educators, specialists, and faculty members both within and beyond the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences already are working on projects that support the Social Responsibility Initiative. Our goal is to recruit outstanding students, faculty and other partners, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and build synergy among individual efforts.
The Social Responsibility Initiative aims to bridge the gap between theory and application by nurturing informed dialogue among stakeholders about societies' most pressing food, agricultural and environmental issues. This dialogue will involve nontraditional stakeholders and encompass issues that have been overlooked in the past. Given its rich mix of rural and urban populations, Ohio is an ideal laboratory and site for the Social Responsibility Initiative.
Working Together on Issues That Matter
The Social Responsibility Initiative has three interrelated working groups focusing on Food, Agriculture/Community, and the Environment. These working groups, and future working groups to be supported by the initiative, are composed of faculty affiliates and students who have coalesced around issues defining the major focus of their teaching, research and outreach. The working groups are currently conceived broadly, but strategic topics are beginning to be identified, such as local food systems, food safety, animal welfare, and community-based natural resource management.
Working groups are focusing on conducting top-quality research that builds on the synergies among social and natural scientists committed to realizing the goals of social responsibility. Our aim is to identify practical problems, develop fundable proposals, collect and analyze data, and generate scholarly and publicly available knowledge.
Faculty affiliates, the SRI research associate, and director form the Initiative's executive committee, working as a team to identify multidisciplinary strategies, unearth opportunities for developing projects, and set priorities for strategic investments in research, teaching and outreach.
- Dr. Tomas M. Koontz (Associate Professor, School of Environment and Natural Resources & John Glenn School of Public Affairs)
- Dr. Jeff S. Sharp (Associate Professor, School of Environment and Natural Resources)
- Dr. Richard H. Moore (Professor, School of Environment and Natural Resources & Anthropology)
- Dr. Douglas J. Doohan (Associate Professor, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science)
- Dr. Robert J. Birkenholz (Professor, Human and Community Resource Development)
- Dr. Linda M. Lobao (Professor, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Sociology, & Geography)
- Dr. Molly Bean (School of Environment and Natural Resources)
Undergraduate Research Assistant
- Ariel Miller (Environmental Policy and Management & Anthropology)