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Three Virginia Tech researchers partner with University of Kent faculty members


BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 11, 2011 – Three grants have been awarded in the Virginia Tech-University of Kent Partnering Award Program for research that examines volunteer tourism, land and justice, and the performance of the organic foods market.

"The partnership program, now in its second year, is aimed at encouraging and facilitating collaboration between faculty members at Virginia Tech and the University of Kent in the United Kingdom," said Karen Roberto, director of the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment, which is the Virginia Tech liaison for the program.

Bilge Daldeniz of the Kent Business School, University of Kent, and Nancy Gard McGehee, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Junior Faculty Fellow of Hospitality Management in the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech, will examine the impacts of volunteer tourism on host communities. 

McGehee has worked on volunteer tourism for over a decade and Daldeniz is an emerging scholar in the area with extensive contacts in the field. Together they will submit an application to the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council to develop a robust, evidence-based framework for future planning, management, and hosting of volunteer tourism.

Todd Mei of the School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, and Nicolaus Tideman, professor of Economics in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, will explore economic and philosophical concepts of land, and how related questions of rights and justice can be developed in new ways. "The investigators do not share identical views on these areas, but a fertile mixture of agreement and difference exists that will lead to a healthy and critical dialogue and develop each scholar’s thought and contribution to their respective fields," said Roberto. Their collaboration will lead to two proposals to the United Kingdom’s Leverhulme Trust: one for a project grant, the other for a visiting professorship.

Joao Macieira, assistant professor of economics at Virginia Tech, and Diogo de Souza Monteiro of Kent Business School, will examine the performance of the organic food market. According to the researchers, certification – such as that for organic farming standards – tends to be implemented and monitored by third parties, such as the Soil Association, and there is now a fast growing global market for the provision of these services. 

However, there has been little empirical research examining the performance of this market. Macieira and de Souza Monteiro's  focus initially is on the organic food sector in the U.S., United Kingdom, and Portugal; they say they plan to prepare a joint paper, and develop a grant proposal targeted at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the U.S. or the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom.

"Congratulations to all those involved in these partnerships. They offer an exciting opportunity to make connections and explore shared research which will, we hope, lead to both a productive collaboration and fruitful long term ties between our two universities," said John Baldock, pro-vice-chancellor for Research at the University of Kent.

Partnering Awards of up to $2,500 will support travel or for small scale data collection to provide preliminary data for their research.

Seven Virginia Tech institutes support research and creative scholarship in strategically important areas, drawing upon the university's established strengths. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute focus on national research priorities, including translational health and medical research, national security, and safe infrastructure. The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, Fralin Life Science Institute, and the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment provide organizational and financial support to develop opportunities at the intersection of engineering, science, and medicine; target infectious disease; and advance human development. The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology promotes creativity, critical thinking, and life-long learning.