A report from the Young Scientist Workshop
August 17, 2014
Attracting and retaining young adults in food science careers requires a strategic mandate for
inclusion and engagement. Engaging young scientists, and encouraging them to step forward
into leadership needs focused leadership and mentorship from senior leaders. IUFoST took a
direct approach in engaging young scientists by instating the Young Scientist Awards Program,
and in 2014, instigated the Young Scientists Workshop. Approximately 150 young scientists
registered for the workshop, and roughly 110 attended the program. Rather than giving formal
presentations in the workshop, the workshop was structured around small breakout groups,
each facilitated by a Young Scientist Award winner. In these breakout groups, each participant
was challenged with the following questions:
1. How do you think you / we / IUFoST can tackle the grand challenges that we as food
scientists and technologists are facing now and in the foreseeable future?
2. How can food science and technology in its broadest sense as a scientific discipline
contribute to find solutions for these grand challenges?
3. If you would have 5 extra hours per week to advocate food science and technology, WHAT
WOULD YOU DO?
Each participant was given the opportunity to speak to their issues, influenced by their personal
and professional experience, their career level, their research interest area, their global region
and more. Given that our young scientist population is the social media generation, equal
opportunity for participation is critical for engagement, as young scientists are used to free and
open exchange. Responses were summarized by each Young Scientist Award winner, and
summary statements were presented to the large group.
How will we tackle the grand challenges?
Consistently, across all of the groups of young scientists, the same concerns about the concerns
facing our global food supply were raised. Global population growth overtaking food
production, climate change affecting food production, post-harvest losses of foods, food safety,
food security and sustainability, and green/rainbow technologies were distinctive concerns.
Working through IUFoST, young scientists have the leverage of a respected organization to
voice their findings and discoveries to a global audience. And through IUFoST, there is
coordination to allied scientific organizations towards a unified approach to problem solving for
the global challenges we face. IUFoST brings an international perspective to its programming,
and as such, brings respect and relevance when advocating for change to global decision
How can food science and technology find solutions for these grand challenges?
The global challenges facing the world are great, and predominantly focused on issues of food
security and environment, which are strongly impacted by our work as food scientists. As
scientists working towards advancing our global wellbeing through food, it is critical for
scientists to communicate effectively about the strategies and solutions that are being created.
First, it is critical to communicate across our scientific community, share ideas, build research
communities based on synergy and mutual interest, and work towards our common goals.
IUFoST is positioned well to be a conduit for this communication strategy, through facilitation
of Special Interest Groups. But secondly, it is equally critical to our success as scientists that we
communicate our findings to the broader community. Communication to industry is critical for
innovation, for industry to see the benefit of implementing new and better technologies.
Communication with consumers is likely the most essential key to our success in tackling our
global challenges. Food science is a critical tool for improving global food security, and
improving our environment, however many consumers are apprehensive towards science in
daily life. It is critical for food scientists to communicate in an effective and meaningful way
with consumers, to bring them a sense of trust for the science that we do, and to build a
relationship of understanding, such that we as scientists ground ourselves in the realities of the
consumers we serve.
From effective communication comes education and extension. Much of our emphasis on
communication relates to our need to pass on information and build capacity. That capacity
building is the building block of our educational mandate. Beyond providing education at the
industrial level, food science delivers a critical skill set at the household level, informing best
practices for nutrition, storage methodologies, safe food handling, and household economics.
Also critical to our education mandate is entrepreneurship, as many people use their daily
interaction with cooking and food production as a gateway to entrepreneurship and business
development. Part of the long term view of our educational mandate is to encourage youth to
take on food science careers. Without strong role models, and visible figures to inspire careers,
it is challenging in many global regions to encourage youth to work in food and agriculture
related careers. It is critical that food science education and extension services be made
available to ensure adoption of best practices.
It is critical that we work with all stakeholders, whether the scientific community, industry or
consumers to build best practices. It is common for scientists to rest on their findings once
published, however for uptake there needs to be active promotion, adoption and
commercialization of findings.
If you would have 5 extra hours per week to advocate food science and technology, WHAT
WOULD YOU DO?
As young scientists, we are the first generation that has been globally immersed in social media.
We communicate and share our lives through the internet, and as such, we should be equally
sharing our scientific practice through social media. Linkedin, in particular would be of interest,
as it is focused on the professional community and is primarily a career networking platform,
which could be used for promoting new findings, regulatory changes, conferences, scholarships
and fellowships. Informal social media groups, such as Facebook, may have more appeal for
broadcasting general information and disseminating factual information about food science to
consumers and young adults.
As a community of young scientists we acknowledge that education and training are priorities.
Publications and conference proceedings are not useful for our industry and consumer
stakeholders. Rather we need to develop and intentional strategy to communicate and
educate on best practices. Whether through direct teaching, through social media, through
internet resources, or other novel ideas, we need to make our knowledge accessible and useful
for end-users who may have limited scientific knowledge, or limited literacy.
As young scientists, we are young, and we are still very much connected to our student
experience. Since we are so early on our career paths it is easy to connect back to our first
interactions with the food science community. Given the immense scale of our food security
challenges, and the growing global food manufacturing sector, we need to attract youth to food
science careers. This is best done through face to face workshops, development of engaging
social media platforms, and development of food science focused curriculum that can be
integrated into primary and secondary level Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
programs. Encouraging youth in entrepreneurship and innovation is also critical, as our success
in solving the global challenges facing us is predicated on having individuals who are both
creative, business minded, and technical to address the challenge.
How can IUFoST sustain and foster a community of young scientists?
The community of young scientists is in a unique position. IUFoST has taken a first step, by
nominating and awarding a small group of young scientist leaders every two years as part of the
IUFoST International Congress. In the 2014 awards cycle, it was suggested by the IAFoST that
an Academy of Young Scientists be developed, as a way to continue to foster activity and
leadership from the Young Scientist Awardees. Membership to the Academy of Young
Scientists would be for Awardees, and their continued tenure within the group would be linked
to their level of commitment and activity for both IUFoST and National Institutes activities.
Young Scientist Awardees tend to receive their nomination for their leadership and
commitment to their national institute of food science, and for their potential as a national or
international thought leader. Members in the Academy of Young Scientists would be
encouraged to continue their national or regional leadership roles. Through the award process,
it is a natural linkage for the Awardees to be linked to members of the IAFoST, and be mentored
into new activities relevant to their academic specialization. Both mentorship, and engagement
in special interest groups at a high level would be encouraged and developed as part of the
program. Mentorship for leadership requires
One of the biggest challenges facing Young Scientists, and an Academy of Young Scientists, is
that youth is a fleeting thing. It has been suggested that inclusion of young scientists be
dependent on a few potential factors. In particular, inclusion criteria should reflect the current
reality of many young scientists, and must be inclusive of gender and regionality, and as such
perhaps should not be as strictly tied to age as it may discriminate against women in their
childbearing years, or individuals from regions where funding for doctoral studies is more
limited. It was suggested that membership to the Academy of Young Scientists be linked to
awardees of the Young Scientist Award in the past 10 years, individuals who have completed
their doctoral studies less than 10 years prior, or individuals in their first professional position,
less than 6 years into their professional career. Inclusion criteria still remains to be formalized.
There is a great opportunity to capitalize on the enthusiasm and energy from young food
scientists. Given the great global challenges facing our generation, and the importance that
food plays in solving these challenges, our opportunity has never been greater. IUFoST can play
a strong role in fostering leadership for Young Scientists through promoting a community
specifically for Young Scientists, and providing the international platform for young scientists to
address the global challenges ahead.
Culled from IUFoST