Research … it plays a vital role in bettering society and embodies the mission of IFT to advance the science of food. It fosters the creation of concepts and theories, helps us build a solid body of systematic knowledge, and advances education, training, and industrial applications. It defines our profession and supports our members’ needs. As a result, we must focus our resources on research.
IFT’s strategic plan identifies the need for IFT to be a Research Champion & Innovation Catalyst. In particular, the plan calls for IFT to champion research on food and emerging sciences, to foster technology development, application, and transfer, to increase funding for food-related research, and to support innovation in food science and technology. The Task Force on Strategic Development outlined four specific goals under this initiative that will ultimately reposition IFT and increase our visibility.
• The first specific goal states that IFT will identify critical future issues and trends impacting consumers and the global food supply. IFT has a number of active working groups, including Divisions and Committees (i.e., Committee for Science Reports and Emerging Issues) charged primarily with identifying key food science and technology issues that impact consumers and the global food supply. Such issues will drive IFT’s internal communications and our Knowledge and Learning initiatives. We must continue to support the important work of these groups.
• Second, we will define the agriculture-food-health continuum and identify critical research needs related to food and health. IFT is a member of the Food Science–Nutrition Task Force, which consists of members of IFT and the American Society for Nutrition, and representatives from the International Food Information Council. Recently, IFT, working through the task force, sponsored a Grant Writing Workshop to advance research at the interface of food science and nutrition by training new investigators to write competitive grant proposals. This initiative and others guided by the task force will concentrate on critical food and health issues.
In another activity, IFT is working with the Academy for Educational Development, which manages the USAID–funded Cooperative Agreement, A2Z: Micronutrient Leadership and Child Blindness Activity. IFT’s first task order is to evaluate the technical and economic feasibility and required conditions for rice fortification in developing countries.
• Third, IFT will stimulate scientific and other innovations by creating communities that explore scientific frontiers and showcase emerging technologies for food-related issues. A good example is the IFT Nanoscience Working Group that recently completed a comprehensive strategic plan for IFT nanoscience initiatives. In July 2007, the Group forwarded comments to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and in September 2007, to the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee of the Committee on Technology, National Science, and Technology Council.
IFT also hosted the second annual International Food Nanoscience Conference on August 1, 2007 in Chicago. The conference presented an overview of the state of food nanoscale science, engineering, and technology in select regions of the globe including Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Among the countries represented at the conference were the U.S., Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Japan, Taiwan, and India. The potential benefits and risks associated with the application of nanoscale science in food were discussed, and an overview of the current knowledge of potential regulatory and safety issues surrounding the use of nanomaterials in food applications was provided.
• Finally, the fourth specific goal is to increase the amount of funding available from traditional and non-traditional funding sources, including industry partnerships, by demonstrating the need for food-related research. As a champion for research, emerging science, and innovation, IFT must demonstrate the need for additional funding in food-related research. Such funding will support the current and future work of our members and sustain food science’s contributions to a safe and abundant food supply for healthier people everywhere.
These are just a few IFT initiatives at the forefront of our strategic plan. Our hope is to increase funding for food science and technology research from many granting agencies (USDA, NSF, NIH, etc.). It is essential that IFT, representing the food science profession, sits at the table and voices an opinion on how and where research funding should be directed. To succeed, it is imperative that we identify and partner with other scientific groups. Over the next several years, I urge you to join IFT’s continuing efforts to create, translate, communicate, and deliver food science and technology research results worldwide.
by John D. Floros,
Professor and Head, Food Science Dept.,
The Pennsylvania State University,
University Park, Pa.