Spring 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 1

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Editor's Page


History in the Making

This is a truly historic issue of the Journal of Extension. The size and content of the Journal increases 25% with this issue, from 32 to 40 pages. Even more important, the number of copies being printed and distributed increases 250% from 4,600 to 11,800. These dramatic changes are made possible by an innovative new funding arrangement in which 51 out of 73 institutions have agreed to provide the Journal of Extension to their Extension staff at either no cost to staff or a reduced subscription rate.

Since a number of you will be reading the Journal of Extension for the first time, this expanded editor's page will tell you what to expect. For long-time readers, I'll remind you of what's changed.

Is Extension Work a Profession?

When the idea of a Journal of Extension was first proposed to ECOP (Extension Committee on Organization and Policy) in 1956, the debate centered on whether Extension was a profession, the implication being that Extension must be viewed as a field of professional practice to merit a journal. It took four years to answer that question in the affirmative and another three to work out the details. The first issue of the Journal of Cooperative Extension was published in Spring 1963.

The Journal has gone through many changes since, including the name change to Journal of Extension in 1969. But, no change has been more important or dramatic than that represented by this historic issue. (For a copy of the Journal's history entitled The Journal Is Born, write to the Wisconsin business office listed inside the front cover.)

Extension's Knowledge Base

The mission of the Journal is to expand and update Extension's research and knowledge base. The critical presumption here is that, as a field of professional practice, Extension has a research and knowledge base represented by our understanding of educational methodology, informal adult learning, technology transfer, problem solving, communications, and managing change, to name but a few areas of Extension expertise.

This description of Extension's knowledge base doesn't include expertise in agriculture, home economics, and youth development. Articles about these traditional program areas may illustrate applications of Extension methods and approaches, but these and other subject-matter areas aren't the primary focus of the Journal. Our focus is EXTENSION. All articles are selected to be of general interest to Extension educators regardless of the particular program area discussed.

Let me illustrate this point with reference to feature articles in this issue. All six feature articles are about how we communicate with Extension clientele. Three articles report research on the effectiveness of various media and technology for communicating to and working with clientele-radio, videotape, and personal computers. The other three present research on processes for getting feedback from clientele, specifically market research, public policy education, and analyzing letters from clientele to the president of the United States and other federal officials. Special articles on this communication theme also appear in other sections of the Journal.

The article "Radio: Untapped Teaching Tool" by Romero- Gwynn/Marshall is about nutrition programming for low-income Hispanics. Now, agriculture or youth agents may be inclined to skip this article since it's not about their program area. "It's about a home economics program." But the nutrition program evaluation is really an illustration of more general Extension principles about targeting delivery to specific audiences with effective, low-cost methods that have an impact. Those general findings are relevant to all program areas.

Likewise, the Grieshop/Bone/Frankie article on market research presents data on a pesticide use program, but the communication and evaluation principles presented are relevant to all Extension efforts, not just agricultural agents involved with pesticides. The Decker/Merrill article on videotape use is based on evaluation of a dairy program, but the implications cut across all program areas.

Part of the challenge of issues programming is to work together across program areas with an interdisciplinary perspective to make a difference on issues of wide public concern. The Journal of Extension will play its part in meeting that challenge by publishing articles that build Extension's knowledge base and are relevant to all Extension educators.

Writing for the Journal

I want to encourage both new and long-time readers to write for the Journal. The inside front cover summarizes guidelines for articles with a more complete statement of guidelines on page 40 of this issue. These guidelines are included specially for new readers of this expanded issue, so you may want to copy and keep them handy for future reference. (The guidelines will be available from the editor's office, but won't be routinely published in the Journal.)

The guidelines note that beginning April 1, 1990, a review fee of $20 must accompany the initial submission of a manuscript. This decision by the Journal's Board of Directors reflects the fee for service trend that's occurring in many areas of Extension and is increasingly common among refereed journals. This fee helps cover the professional and administrative costs of reviewing and editing manuscripts.

I also urge you to read and become familiar with all sections of the Journal. You'll find ideas about communications, technology, leadership, and effective programming throughout this issue with special contributions in Forum, Futures, Ideas at Work, Research in Brief, and Tools of Trade, as well as the always challenging views of the To the Point contributors. The best way to learn to write for the Journal of Extension is to thoroughly read the Journal. Make the next issue of the Journal the one in which your own article appears, thereby making it personally historic for you as you contribute to the knowledge base of Extension.