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And I wah-wah-wonder why… May 16, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research.
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I’ve been getting comments back on proposals I wrote last fall.  Most of them are really helpful, but there are a couple major head scratchers.

There was one comment, however, that was just plain funny and managed to make it into the project summary. One of the reviewers simply asked, “Why?!”

As our group was going over the reviews, we came to that one, and the response was, “Obviously, he (or she) must be from a city.”

The project involves developing a product to help with precision agricultural practices.  It’s very funny that I’ve discussed this project with several people who have no technical background whatsoever and, because most of the people I’ve discussed this with outside of work have had some ties to farming (it’s pretty easy when you grow up in North Dakota), they immediately understand the implications of the project.  If we can make it work, they say, that would be really incredible and help save money for farmers, etc.  Given that it’s clear to most people I know without getting into technical details, it should be obvious to everyone, right?

Nope.  I suppose the flip side of this is that our group took it for granted that the benefits of this project were obvious and so we didn’t spend as much time justifying it as we could have.  I suppose the folks shelling out government funding for projects are pretty likely to be city dwellers…probably in big cities, at that.  How many have ever even stepped foot on a farm?  I suppose they have a rather simplified view of the whole growing food process.  And we obviously didn’t take our audience into account.

I can easily see, though, why some academics get the reputation of being stuck in an ivory tower.

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