Evaluating Climate Services Begins at the Beginning: Designing Evaluation into Research and Outreach Programs

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 1:30 PM
226C (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Elizabeth C. McNie, CIRES/Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO

Many research organizations and scientists are beginning to shape their research and outreach efforts to provide climate services that result in useful climate information that expands policy alternatives, clarifies choices, and improves resilience to climate variability and change. Research methods and approaches to conducting and providing climate services are inchoate, ad-hoc, and poorly understood. Organizational and programmatic evaluation of climate-service providers is just beginning to be performed, and like the services it seeks to evaluate, is also often conducted in ad-hoc ways. Organizational and programmatic evaluation itself, however, is a well-established field and can inform such efforts aimed at understanding efficacy of climate services. Recent evaluation efforts point to many lessons that can be applied to ongoing and future evaluation. Lessons include: using established social science methodology, getting ‘buy-in' from key stakeholders who can implement change, developing systematic approaches to evaluation, and selecting the right output and outcome metrics. The most important lesson to be learned is that evaluation metrics, processes and objectives must be built into the research agendas of the climate-service organizations well before any evaluation work begins, and this is no easy task. Nevertheless, there are strategies that can be adopted by climate-service organizations to improve both the relevance of their evaluation and therefore the value of their contribution to improving society's resilience to climate variability and change. This talk will draw from the speaker's experience that includes evaluation work with two climate-service organizations in the United States.