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So I've written about the sorts of things I glean from monitoring blogs and Google Alerts. As for Twitter, I read recently that only about 10% of the US population uses Twitter for professional communications, but those 10% are the innovators in media and technology. Incidentally, they also include a lot of government agencies at all levels. Of the 125 or so Twitter feeds that I follow, some, such as the Columbia Water Center and the Sustainable Cities Initiative, are university-based organizations. But far more, including NOAA, EPA, Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, State of Minnesota MPCA, and cities and counties, are from public agencies.
"Back in the day" (and I'm definitely old enough to use that expression!) you had to be on innumerable mailing lists to keep up with the flows of reports, announcements, policy updates and news from the agencies involved with rivers. Now, just follow their Twitter feeds, which often include a web link and sometimes a direct connection to a pdf document, and you're all set.
But I still haven't answered the question of why I do this, have I?
I think there are several reasons, most of which stem from the main mission of the River Life Program, which is to "create, gather, and distribute integrative knowledge that lets universities and their partners work together to create inclusive, sustainable rivers."
That's a mouthful, ok, I know. Mission statements are meant to be read in small chunks, I think. But clearly digital media are central in the 21st century to folks who are serious about the effort to "gather and distribute" new knowledge. And knowledge is no longer held just in refereed journals written by and for academic elites. Those are still important, but the translation of that peer-reviewed information to knowledge that helps people do work "on the ground" (or on the water) is vital.
And it's that translation that is the heart of the matter for me, that and "integrative" which I'll pick up another time.
Everyone is busy, whether you're a program administrator or teacher at a university, or an agency researcher or interpretive planner off campus. No one has time to even look through all this stuff in the digital realm, much less read, digest, understand, and put new knowledge to work.
This is where River Life plays a pivotal role. We will be rolling out some new platforms for communication in the next few weeks, with the goal of becoming a helpful "one stop" for audiences on campus and off.
What are the latest insights on river sustainability from academic resources?
Who has found innovative ways to involve community groups that have not been represented before?
What are the best case studies of river protection going forward?
These are the things we're seeking and what we're trying to convey to people, whether advocates off campus, students looking for a leg up on a research project, or anyone else who is trying to be, in the great phrase "the best at 'next'"
What knowledge would enhance your work, and how can we make that accessible to you?
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily
of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.