Who: Dr. Ellen Goddard
Professor, Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Science and Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology, University of Alberta
Dr. Ellen Goddard is a Professor within the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Science, Department of Resource Economics & Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta. Outside of teaching, Goddard is President of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society. Her research interests lie in cooperation between agriculture and business, agricultural marketing, trade and policy, and public and producer attitudes and behaviour.
For Dr. Ellen Goddard, academics were not only an expected path, but a family legacy. With her grandfather as the first principal of the first public high school in the small town she grew up in, and her grandmother attending the University of Toronto and teachers’ college, Goddard felt a natural pull towards education.
“My grandmother used to drive my grandfather out to farms around the town we lived in. And he would try to persuade the farm parents to let their kids stay in high school longer than 16.”
When Goddard started her university career, she went to the University of Guelph ardently determined to be a marine biologist., but soon became more interested in agriculture, spurred by the science courses already taken, but also because of family connections.
In exploring agriculture, Goddard found a fascination in agricultural economics and the connection between farming and business. She went on to complete her Master’s degree at the University of Guelph focusing on livestock, particularly cattle and pork.
“I like to find out the people side of it. Why do people behave the way they do? And how does that feed into policy? Should it even feed into policy or not?”
She then moved to Australia to complete her PhD which looked at international beef trade before returning to the University of Guelph to start her career. After Guelph she worked at the University of Melbourne and started at the University of Alberta in 2000.
Goddard saw the need for policy research in Alberta related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) which, at the time, could pose a potential threat to the Alberta beef industry.
Once BSE showed up in 2003, Goddard’s research took centre stage. Funders recognized the need to understand farmer and consumer behaviour and effective management policies.
As an agriculture economist, Goddard’s expertise ranges from marketing, trade and policy to soliciting and analyzing consumer and producer needs. She believes interdisciplinary research is critical to advance genomic technologies as well as understanding the publics’ perceptions and wants.
“We want to be in the space where the public can see that genomics research is something that can improve society. But I don't know that we spend enough time making sure that piece of it is at the core.”
Goddard’s emphasis on consumer and producer opinions plays important roles in her work with Genome Canada and Genome Alberta. She is currently part of the 2018 Genome Canada Large-Scale Applied Research Project “Integrating genomic approaches to improve dairy cattle resilience: A comprehensive goal to enhance Canadian dairy industry sustainability” led by Dr. Christine Baes, Dr. Marc-André Sirard, Dr. Paul Stothard, and Dr. Ronaldo Cerri.
The work on this project will be critical in understanding the optimal traits that maximize cattle resilience, inspire public support, and hopefully contribute to a better public understanding of dairy production.
After a long and productive research career, Goddard says her next step is retirement but hopes to have more time to write and publish.
“I'm looking forward to potentially having some days off where I can get [a] backlog of [research] written up and published… it would be nice to get it out there as well as some thought pieces to complement it.”
Along with writing, Goddard says she wants to use her time to volunteer. This was triggered by the way the COVID-19 pandemic was handled globally.
“There are obvious issues about acceptance of vaccines. We've got to fix these things somehow…we clearly have communication problems about the use of technology, what technologies are appropriate. Many of our developing countries have the capacity to use these tools and to develop contextually relevant applications of these tools, it’s just about accessibility and acceptance.”
Working with Genome Alberta
Goddard says the main importance of funding agricultural science is understanding the future adoption of the research and how it can be applied into everyday life with everyday people and enhancing adoption by including farmers.
“Genome Canada plays a really strong role in terms of maintaining a focus on the basic research that's going to underpin the future. We need farmers engaged in that process. We need the farmers to understand the focus in that process and participate in that process, identifying barriers and enablers of the application of the research.”
Funding partners also maintain a continuation of interest in research topics and projects like Goddard’s. Programs like the New Frontiers in Research fund have a particular focus on multidisciplinary research.
The collective efforts in the earlier BSE work, various Genome Canada projects, and National Centres of Excellence initiatives (PrioNet and Sustainable Forestry Network) allowed for great collaboration between my social science colleagues. Many of them are now playing a role in the Future Energy Systems Research at the University of Alberta.