Source: TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Jun 15, 2023
Project End Date
Jun 14, 2028
Grant Year
Project Director
Wingenbach, G.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
Public perception of science in America is tenuous. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Science Blueprint described a communication gap between scientists and nonscientists. The report noted that despite unprecedented scientific and information progress, there remains increasing distrust of science and politicization of scientific discoveries, in part because of public misunderstanding of science, scientists' ineffective communications, and increased tendencies to report select information that confirms one's existing beliefs. Scientists and nonscientists can bridge communication gaps through coordinated efforts to make scientific discoveries accessible and understandable.The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides a solution to lessen the gap through its Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) program. NIFA program leaders realized that REEU program benefits could be expanded exponentially if greater awareness existed of the REEU program. Likewise, program participants flatten their learning curves through coordinated, rather than duplicated efforts. Hence NIFA issued a call for an Education Coordination Network (ECN) for REEUs. This project fulfills the USDA and NIFA's request to establish a national REEU-ECN.The National REEU-ECN is a 60-month project with goal to develop and sustain a national community of practice for REEU programs. We will build a secure national network for REEU projects and personnel to facilitate project activities, enhance collaboration among participants, offer communication skill activities, and promote awareness of REEUs through public events.The Community of Practice takes advantage of centralized network systems for REEU project directors (PDs) and participants to interact, collaborate, and inform others about undergraduates' experiential (research, education, and extension) programs in the food and agricultural sciences. Project objectives are to: 1) Establish a REEU Community of Practice; 2) Provide a national clearinghouse for REEU projects; 3) Create and maintain secure online spaces and listserv for REEU project directors (PDs) and participants; 4) Bridge communication gaps between scientists and the public; 5) Create and maintain a public website to promote REEU programs; and 6) Co-organize the REEU PD meeting in collaboration with NIFA every 18-24 months.National REEU-ECN has secure web hosting services, storage, and advanced systems administration. Public interaction with REEU projects and participants occurs through multiple in-person and online activities. About 35 REEU projects/year will participate in virtual or in-person professional development activities to improve communication skills that increase non-participants' awareness, engagement, and appreciation of REEU programs.More than 550 REEU participants/year (~2,800 total) will gain agricultural and communication skills through a community of practice, science symposia, expanded science networks, and public forums that increase public understanding of science. The outcomes and impact include a national REEU Community of Practice, a digital clearinghouse, centralized networking services, secure online spaces, inter-agencies' symposia (USDA, NSF, NIH, EPA) to bridge communication gaps between scientists and the public, and positive influences on public opinion of science.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Knowledge Area
001 - Administration;

Subject Of Investigation
0001 - Administration;

Field Of Science
3020 - Education; 3030 - Information and communication;
Goals / Objectives
The primary goal to develop and sustain a national community of practice for REEU programs. We will build a secure national network for REEU projects and personnel to facilitate project coordination activities, enhance collaboration among REEU participants, offer communication skill activities, and promote REEU program awareness through public events. The objectives are to: 1) Establish a REEU Community of Practice; 2) Provide a national clearinghouse for REEU projects; 3) Create and maintain secure online spaces and listserv for REEU project directors (PDs) and participants; 4) Bridge communication gaps between scientists and the public; 5) Create and maintain a public website to promote REEU programs; and 6) Co-organize the REEU PD meeting in collaboration with NIFA every 18-24 months.
Project Methods
Methods to conduct the National REEU-ECN include initiating a REEU Community of Practice (CoP) by asking REEU PDs (experienced and novice) to serve on a CoP advisory board (with rotating membership) to assist the REEU-ECN PDs develop and provide quarterly communications and professional development workshops. Workshops will be virtual (via the REEU-ECN digital clearinghouse) and in-person, when coinciding with the REEU PD meeting. Sessions will feature public relations and social media representatives to broaden REEU-ECN members' awareness of public-preferred science news sources. Other sessions include social media science writing, YouTube analytics, LearnVideo, and vlogs/blogs, with practical public communications activities.The Texas A&M AgriLife Research Cloud Service Center (ARC) will develop the National REEU-ECN digital clearinghouse. Digital clearinghouse setup and maintenance processes include a) Establish hosting through shared service using WP Engine; b) Build web application hub/network online environment for multisite, multiuser collaboration; c) Design and manage REEU program search functionality; d) Setup and administer user access; e) Develop an individualized program landing page (~35 REEUs annually; >300 role-based users); f) Establish administration for each REEU PD (directory pages linked to external system/program); g) Setup storage and permissions for PDs (shared 5TB WPE - Amazon S3 File Bucket); h) Install and setup online forum/discussion (user registration and login with front-end form; Post forum topics in simple form; Topic-specific pages generate replies/threads); i) Create documentation and user guides (Terms of Use and Privacy Statement; see Other Attachments); and j) Define users' roles and tasks. Additional processes (e.g., identifying student users' roles/tasks) will be decided in onboarding processes. We will purchase and maintain the National REEU-ECN domain name. Next, we will contact all newly funded REEU PDs to initiate onboarding processes in the National REEU-ECN. REEU PDs will be assigned account logins/passwords for collaboration processes (posting, accessing, sharing documents, data, and outputs). New REEU students and mentors will join the National REEU-ECN using personalized login credentials.We will create and maintain secure online collaboration spaces for REEU PDs and participants to interact and share information. REEU-ECN members will collaborate using National REEU-ECN structures (provided by ARC), and Microsoft 365 and Teams (Azure, OneDrive, SharePoint, OneNote) to share information nationwide. The REEU listserv will be hosted with secure listserv management systems and user-friendly platforms.We seek to bridge communication gaps between scientists and the public through interagency sciences (e.g., NSF, NIH, EPA) symposia. Also, we will create and host the FANH sciences symposia, an annual virtual exposition of REEU students' achievements and mentors' accomplishments. REEU-ECN members will decide symposia topics. REEU students' posters, videos, and livestream presentation events occur during the FANH sciences symposia. FANH sciences symposia will be hosted as a Microsoft Teams Live event.The public facing website resides within the National REEU-ECN network. It will promote REEU projects and participants, engage the public through agricultural sciences outreach, and positively influence public opinion of science. Traditional and social media will amplify the website's reach. REEU-ECN members' profiles and project-related outputs will be linked to social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) to further expand the National REEU-ECN's digital footprint. Public engagement occurs through FANH science forums that will increase public understanding and trust and improve perceptions of science. REEU students and PDs' achievements will be promoted through weekly REEU highlights. In Year 1, one REEU program (mentors-mentees) will be featured weekly in social media and through national announcements (media posts, association listservs, e-newsletters.). In successive years, additional programs will be added, until program highlights become daily occurrences.We will co-organize the REEU PD meeting in collaboration with NIFA Program Leadership every 18-24 months by creating timelines and task schedules to ensure all meeting plans are executed. In-person meetings will be determined by NIFA. Livestream capabilities will be available for those who cannot travel but want to participate in the REEU PD meeting. We will organize and conduct REEU PD roundtable and panel discussion sessions during the PD meeting. Panel discussions provide opportunities for dialogue across shared interests, such as the effective administration of REEU programs. REEU PD roundtable and panel discussion sessions will focus on REEU topics or issues, such as student recruitment and retainment, public engagement, program evaluation techniques, and/or dissemination of program results. All sessions will be recorded for posting to the REEU-ECN website. Additionally, we will organize and conduct REEU student poster sessions as part of the REEU PD meetings. Scientific posters and presentations help REEU students gain skills in communications through sharing their REEU experiences with scientists, educators, and peers. Students' posters and presentations include a competition. Selected REEU PDs will serve as judges. Certificates will be awarded to the top three posters and presentations at each REEU PD meeting.

Progress 06/15/23 to 06/14/24

Target Audience:The target audienceincluded postsecondary faculty members serving as REEU Project Directors (PDs) and postsecondary students, and members of the public. PDs and students are the primary audiences for inter-project networking outcomes (Community of Practice, digital clearinghouse, online meetings, etc.), while public engagement will be the focus of the website, forums, and other online spaces (i.e., social media). Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?An onboarding workshop (to the private ECN) was held in late March2024. Training sessions included navigating theUSDA-REEU SharePoint network, communication channels, uploading/sharing materials, and creating communications (news and events). A spring retreat for the REEU project, Science Influencers, was held on April 30-May 1, 2024.Six videos were produced during the retreat for distribution to all REEU PDs. Video topics included 1) preparing for REEU summer internships; 2) reflective practice to promote scientific inquiry; 3) engaging the public in science using social media; 4) writing impact statements; 5) integrating public relations into your internship; and 6) creating social media content during the internship. These videos are applicable to all ECN PDs to augment their project materials for REEU students. The ECN PDs have participated in several planning meetings for the REEU PDs' national meeting (fall, 2024), initiating completion of objective 6. Initial co-host sites included joining the Western Region of the American Association of Agricultural Education in Chico, CA during its annual research conference. A poll was conducted among all REEU PDs, who preferred an in-person meeting (mid-October) at NIFA HQ in Kansas City. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?We developed social media channels (Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter) to promote Additional materials, such as the processes to establish a nationwide ECN, are being used to develop research poster abstracts for submission to a conference in September. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Future tasks include conducting interviews of PDs and their students to create weekly highlights through all ECN social channels. Increased advertisements of REEU opportunities will be posted in to maximize exposure of student research and extension internships nationwide. Professional development workshops (videos, news releases, podcasts, etc.) will be developed and delivered to all ECN members and their students in the next 12 months. The REEU-ECN advisory board will conduct regular fall/spring meetings to advise the ECN about members' training needs and co-host possibilities for conference/meeting events in public and private venues.

What was accomplished under these goals? Development of the USDA-REEU SharePoint private network began in January 2024. Although this network will change, per changing needs of REEU PDs, the initial structure was solidified by the end of February. From there, 50 REEU PDs were invited and added to the ECN before the official launch, which occurred on March 28, 2204. Objective 1 was realized within the first six months of 2024. Member surveys, program materials, chats, training sessions, etc. have occurred since the launch date. More than 2,280 visitors have accessed the private community of practice since its launch, with 1,330 REEU PD visits in the past 90 days. Objective 2 was initiated and will be ongoing throughout the life of project, even beyond project end date. Objective 3 was realized with the initiation of the SharePoint private network, which includes an interface with Office365 for private groups and email lists. The public facing website, REEU-ECN: The FANH Scientists Network ( was launched in tandem with the private network, USDA-REEU SharePoint, thus fulfilling objective 5. This publicsite promotes REEU projects, PDs, workshops, publications (from all REEU projects), news, and resources for members and the public. Since its launch, more than 1,000 pageviews were logged in 580+ sessions. Top countries for site visits were from USA (528), China (24), Australia (6), and Germany (5); others included Spain, India, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom. Top referrals were from (163) and (23).