Teaching Animal Advocates: A Year As Faunalytics’ Research Director
Last spring my inbox was flooded with emails from friends and colleagues, all of whom were forwarding the same item—a call for applications for the position as Research Director at the Faunalytics. As an academic, I had not previously considered a career with non-profits. However, once I read the job announcement I knew what everyone was telling me was correct—this was a perfect opportunity for me.
I am happy to announce that a few weeks ago I celebrated my one-year anniversary with Faunalytics! Working with Faunalytics has allowed me to combine my technical skills and training, my intellectual interests, and my commitment to animal advocacy.
One of the most surprising things to me over this past year was how few differences there are between the non-profit world of research and the academic world. For example, one of my main focuses as an academic was teaching. Teaching is the act of making the knowledge one has accumulated accessible to students and providing them the necessary skills to inform themselves when new issues or interests arise. This is exactly what we do at Faunalytics for advocates. We make research accessible and easy to understand through resources like the visualization tool and our Research Primers and provide research training when appropriate.
Another key role of the academic is asking important questions and developing valid and reliable methodologies to answer these questions. This, too, is the orienting strategy of our research at Faunalytics. The main difference between the two types of research is that, at Faunalytics, each research question has a clear agenda—to directly assist animal advocates or animals. As an academic I asked, “Is this interesting?” and “Will this generate new knowledge?” At Faunalytics I ask these questions, but add an extra: “How will this research be applied to animal advocacy?”
As wonderful as this past year has been, I am bursting with excitement for what my next year at Faunalytics has in store. We are going to continue with all the wonderful things that we do for advocates and animals, including our annual Animal Tracker survey, adding at least one new research item to our research database every single day, providing discounted and pro bono research services for animal advocacy groups, updating and revising our Research Primers with the latest research, and spreading our knowledge through presentations and talks at conferences, universities, and workshops.
In addition to all of this, we are going to step things us a bit. Now that the rest of the Faunalytics team has shown me the ropes and I am settled in, we are ready to take advantage of having a larger team by expanding our services to better meet the needs of animal advocates.
In the area of research, we have several great things in store. This summer will be the unveiling of the Humane Trends study. As discussed in my previous post, this is a new major project that Faunalytics will update on a bi-annual basis. It is intended to highlight to scholars where data collection and research is needed, direct advocates to areas where animals need the most help, and provide advocates the research and justification needed to implement legislative changes.
This summer we will also begin the first pro bono projects under our new Grassroots Research Fund. Applications are due July 1st and by the end of August we will announce two grassroots animal advocacy groups that will receive $5,000 worth of free research services from Faunalytics. We plan to provide free research to at least two animal advocacy groups on an annual basis moving forward.
Also in the area of research, we are working to develop new data sets and make them available for free to scholars and others interested in animal-friendly research. We will begin by providing the detailed results of our Animal Tracker and Humane Trends studies. Our next data set, expected to be released by end of the year, tracks all meat-product recalls by the USDA over the past five years. We hope to release a new data set every one to two years.
To keep up with our commitment to teaching, we are also working on a slide show, combined with an audio presentation, based on our companion animal research primers. Another recorded “webinar” covering our vegetarian research primers will be in the works next. These presentations will allow advocates to quickly and easily brush up on the state of research in these areas, with a user-friendly format. If these presentations receive good feedback from advocates, we will do similar webinars for each primer in our series.
I am grateful to my colleagues at Faunalytics and the other animal advocacy groups with whom we work for helping me transition into the world of non-profit research. Now that I am settled in, I am ready to work harder than ever to help animal advocates help animals. Here is to another great year!