Jennifer Van Os receives Research Forward project funding

Dr. Jennifer Van Os

“Mooving Cows: An innovative learning approach using a serious game to improve cow-handling skills in dairy-farm personnel” led by Jennifer Van Os in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences was one of 11 projects recently selected for funding in the first round of the new Research Forward award competition.

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) hosts the Research Forward initiative to stimulate and support highly innovative and groundbreaking research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The initiative is supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and will provide funding for 1–2 years, depending on the needs and scope of the project.

Research Forward seeks to support collaborative, multidisciplinary, multi-investigator research projects that are high-risk, high-impact, and transformative. It seeks to fund research projects that have the potential to fundamentally transform a field of study as well as projects that require significant development prior to the submission of applications for external funding. Collaborative research proposals are welcome from within any of the four divisions (Arts & Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences), as are cross-divisional collaborations.

Van Os’s project will create a digital serious game to transform training in farm animal handling. Trainees will practice proper techniques in a simulated setting – safe for both people and cows. Research Forward funding will enable programming and pilot testing of the training tool with dairy farm personnel. This multidisciplinary team comprises experts in animal welfare science, veterinary medicine, social psychology and behavior change, human health, and multilingual education and extension.

Why is this important? On Wisconsin dairy farms, millions of human-cow interactions occur each day. Handling cows is necessary to harvest milk and provide animal care, but presents a risk of injury to personnel. Furthermore, inappropriate handling of cows impairs animal welfare and milk production and erodes public trust in dairy farming practices. Proper cow handling requires effective training, but existing resources have substantial limitations and lack evidence of effectiveness. Education research has demonstrated that “serious games” produce positive learning outcomes.

Jennifer Van Os, assistant professor of animal and dairy sciences

Nigel Cook, professor and chair of food animal production in medical sciences

Markus Brauer. Professor of psychology
Olufunmilola Abraham, assistant professor of pharmacy
Dominic Ledesma, interim director of diversity and inclusion for the UW–Madison Division of Extension