Social Science Team


Information ecology (IE) refers to “a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment” (Nardi & O’Day, 1999). Information ecology can be used to connect growers, educators, and scientists to identify and characterize the variety of shared perspectives on the risks and rewards of cover crop adoption. 


Our social science team seeks to determine the effectiveness of communication between growers and scientists, characterize and measure change in the IE through grower interviews, surveys, and network analysis. As agriculture becomes increasingly dependent on dynamic technological systems, separations can develop between growers looking for trusted sources of information to improve their systems and the vast network of researchers who study those improvements. Our social science team is predominantly divided into three teams looking at different aspects of the agricultural information ecosystem.

Data Collection

Dr. Marilyn E. Swisher at the University of Florida will lead grower think-tank sessions to understand how our science is relevant to what growers are seeing in their operations. Information gathered in these sessions will also provide feedback, which can help to inform future cover crop research projects.

Dr. Jennifer Jo Thompson at the University of Georgia will talk with growers about our outreach and support strategies to ensure they are relevant and accessible. The goal is to develop a shared language which allows researchers to more effectively communicate with one another, and share information with growers more easily.

Dr. Meredith Niles at the University of Vermont will survey growers who have participated in our on-farm project, as well as random non-participant farmers in PSA states, to understand what trusted sources growers rely on to get information to improve their operations. Determining where growers are getting their information from will help the entire PSA team develop effective communication strategies to make sure growers are getting the most up-to-date and relevant information of interest.

Diagram depicting the social science team objective.
Photo credit: PSA social science team.