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The Extension mission is supported by many, and as a result, our efforts are funded a wide variety of ways. For over a century, Ohio’s Extension efforts have been made possible by a cooperative arrangement involving federal, state, and local funding (historically county-based). More recently, these three funding sources have been joined by another funding source which has become an ever-increasing share of the total – called “Other”.
“Other” funding has really enabled us to go farther. It includes what you might charge as a program fee or meeting registration and helps to cover the cost of the meeting room, materials, travel expenses, etc. It includes what we think of as “fees for service” or contracts for specific trainings or types of engagement (think of Pesticide Education, SNAP-ed, BR&E programs, etc). This “Other” category also includes all of our funding administered through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) that helps cover the cost of our scholarly efforts.
When we engage in Extension scholarship we are trying to learn or investigate something. We typically do this in collaboration with others (e.g. farmers, campus-based researchers, other Extension professionals in Ohio and beyond, etc.). When such scholarly efforts receive funding that is coordinated through OSP, we are considered investigators and at least one of our team must serve in the role of principal investigator (PI).
Faculty automatically have PI status upon hire. All other Extension professionals who pursue such OSP-coordinated Extension work must apply for PI status. Like getting your passport well in advance of any specific plans to travel abroad, having PI status well in advance of your pursuit of such external funding makes a ton of sense too (who wants to be far from home standing in line at customs without a passport???).
Let’s get you ready to travel! You can learn more about the process at https://extension.osu.edu/policy-and-procedures-handbook/iv-financial-and-business-practices/principal-investigator-status. And if you can’t remember if you applied for (and received) PI status previously, you can verify at https://orapps.osu.edu/studyteamlookup/ and/or simply contact Terri Fisher (fisher.456).
For most of us, the world as we know it was turned on its side about four months ago. Listing all the various ways is not necessary here – you are all too familiar with what you have experienced and what we continue to endure. My mission in this post is to help you think differently about your work.
Over the past four months, I have watched as we have reacted and adapted the way we carry out our Extension mission. From my viewpoint, we have immediately responded using every digital communication tool available to us (OSU-approved or not – I love the innovative spirit!). We have capitalized on opportunities to engage with teammates to update materials and generate new timely creative works. We have focused our thoughts and energies on how we can effectively engage with our program partners and clientele – how we ultimately carry out our Extension mission in a world where we are largely restricted from engaging them physically face to face.
But I sense that collectively we are growing weary and struggling to realize that we can continue to engage our program partners, clientele, and stakeholders. I know we miss our people and the relationships that we have cultivated. For many, we miss the satisfaction of planning and delivering programs face to face. We miss the satisfaction we feel when we are driving home from the office after a super-productive day or the workshop that went even better than we hoped.
Our Extension programming in the ‘Age of COVID’ consists of phone calls, Zoom meetings and webinars, web-page updates, blog posts, social media, etc. It involves tons more screen time (your eyes hurt too, right?). This ‘socially-distanced’ Extension approach may not be your preference, but this is what we currently have. And, if we still believe in the Extension mission, I believe that now more than ever we need to embrace it.
Whether you are struggling with our virtual engagement approach or not, please realize that we are reaching others via these approaches. In fact, we have demonstrated that we can reach many more people than we did previously, in some cases.
How do we know? We keep count. If you have not already, please begin counting and tracking numbers and topics the same way you would if you were conducting F2F programs. You hold a MGV meeting virtually? Count the participants. Create a short educational video you post to the Internet? Count the subscribers to that FB page or YouTube channel. Take a call from a homeowner with a black ant problem in the house? Track that too. This is how you are engaging. This is Extension! Let’s keep counting!
Last week we started to break down what we mean when we use the term “Extension program”. Included in that discussion was the role that materials and resources informed by research and evidence (such as factsheets, bulletins, curriculum, webpages, and other published media like videos and webinars) play in programming. These creative works are a form of Extension scholarship and generally involve a good bit of work to produce. And, they are typically made better when reviewed by others. It is this practice that we refer to as ‘peer review’.
Peer review can be formal or informal and neither type need be difficult. Both types help us collectively get better. For example, let’s say you crafted some ‘one time use’ educational materials for an event you plan to conduct next week. You might contact a few colleagues to share some background info on the event, describe the audience and your anticipated outcomes, and ask them if they are willing to provide some informal feedback. This approach can often be helpful in showing us something overlooked.
Other forms of scholarship warrant more formal review. For example, our creative outputs of a more ‘lasting nature’ can benefit from a more systematic review process to ensure quality, consistency, accuracy, etc. When we are involved in the production of materials as part of a larger on-going effort, we do well to think through and describe the review process in writing to inform authors and reviewers of our specific expectations regarding such creative productions. One such example that immediately comes to mind is the e-Fields Research Video review process, scoring criteria, and 'review squad' (yes, we are even creative in how we name our committees!)
Making the time to create such educational materials is hard enough. Trying to understand and navigate the process of peer review shouldn’t make it any harder. To help simplify this aspect of Extension scholarship, we have recently revised and updated the background information and step-by-step guidance found here. I encourage you to take a moment to become familiar with what is shared and feel free to contact me or the appropriate assistant director if you have any questions. Let’s get better together!
What a fantastic question (thank you for asking, blog subscriber!) Here is a question that could very well require the full subscribership to adequately address. To get the conversation started, here are two of the most common ways we see “Extension program” described:
- An event and/or a collection or series of events
- An initiative or effort designed to address an issue, concern, and/or opportunity
We know such events and efforts pack a full range of resources that are intentionally and strategically invested to yield an anticipated outcome or result. The Extension program logic model provides a framework for organizing these resources and evaluating their impact. Using this model to describe our efforts, our programs are the product of:
- financial support (think federal, state, and local – as well as grants, contracts, and fees)
- stakeholder input and support (such as advisory committees, program committees, commodity groups, etc)
- materials and resources informed by research and evidence (such as factsheets, bulletins, curriculum, webpages, and other published media)
- our time! (think of time spent planning, coordinating, communicating, engaging, teaching, tracking, evaluating, reporting, etc)
If we really stop and consider the full range of what we do, in some way or another, all of us engage a wide variety of partners to build better lives, businesses and communities throughout Ohio. This is Extension programming. This is the essence of how and what we do to fulfill the engagement aspect of our land-grant mission.
So, now it is your turn. What is an Extension program?