Alison Bentley, Director of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and CEAT Fellow, was announced as the 2023 Borlaug CAST Communication Award Recipient earlier this month. She was recognised for her work raising the awareness of the importance of wheat as a global food crop, as well as her work in initiating and leading the Women in Crop Science network.
Dr Bentley is an expert on wheat genetics, developing and delivering new tools and technology to improve plant breeding, crop production and adaptation to climate change. She has a passion for delivering practical applications from innovation to farmers, and mentoring and support of individuals and community efforts. She also has a passion for communicating – using a variety of formats from classic science presentations and open access articles, to blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, and Twitter campaigns to help spread the message.
In 2022 alone, Dr Bentley delivered 20 scientific presentations—including five international keynote talks and 15 invited talks. She focused her communication efforts around two major areas. The first was a science-led response to the impact of the Russian/Ukraine war on global wheat production through several pieces in Nature, followed with a social media campaign and numerous presentations and invited policy briefings.
Her second area of focus was a major communications campaign by initiating and leading the Women in Crop Science network. This network was developed to address key issues such as the promotion and championing of females throughout their research careers, creating equal opportunities, and increasing the visibility of its members.
Dr Bentley visited Canberra for a week in August last year, and gave the keynote address at a food security seminar hosted by CEAT, as well as presenting at the Crawford Fund Conference, building on the themes raised in the Nature article on the social and political effects of food insecurity, especially in relation to wheat. She outlined practical interventions to enable stability in the short term and build resilience in the longer term. She also furthered the work of the Women in Crop Science network by helping to organise and speak at a Women in Crop Science Coffee event held at CSIRO.
The official presentation of the award will take place at a special side event during the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue event in Des Moines, Iowa, in October. The Borlaug CAST Communication Award honors the legacy of Dr Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Prize winner and author of the first CAST publication, and Dr Charles A. Black, the first executive vice president of CAST.
It is presented annually for outstanding achievement by a scientist, engineer, technologist, or other professional working in the agricultural, environmental, or food sectors for contributing to the advancement of science through communication in the public policy arena.
You can find out more about the awards here.