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Food system modeling methods are the focus of learning community

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Posted: March 22, 2014

One primary objective of the EFSNE Outreach Team is to share information and insights generated by the project to its stakeholders. Among the project’s many contributions to date is the innovative use of various modeling methods. The Outreach Team is about to launch a learning community around this topic.

"This learning community will allow food system researchers to come together and build on their understanding and uses of modeling in ways that will strengthen their work," said Kathy Ruhf, who leads the Outreach Team. As with all learning communities, members have something in common — in this case food systems research — and an interest in learning from one another. The purpose of this virtual community is to build and share knowledge, skills and tools related to food systems modeling. Modeling is the application of tools and methods to analyze complex, real-world problems in order to make predictions about what might happen with various actions. From mathematical models to geospatial crop models, these tools allow researchers to ask "what if" questions and to explore possible outcomes of different scenarios.

Once underway, the membership of the learning community will expand to include practitioners.

Ruhf, EFSNE Deputy Director Kate Clancy, and Scenarios and Modeling Team Leader Christian Peters have partnered with colleagues at Michigan State University and the Union of Concerned Scientists to organize the learning community. Their first step is to convene a panel of researchers from several disciplines who are actively engaged in food systems modeling. In the months to come, this core group will establish the goals and activities of the learning community before extending their outreach efforts to other researchers, initially, and then to practitioners — non-academics such as community, industry and organization leaders. The purpose of the learning community at that point will be to foster learning and communication between researchers and the practitioners who use — or may want to use — modeling techniques.