7.4 Evaluating an Interdisciplinary Effort to Create and Promote Ag/climate Decision Support Tools

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 11:00 AM
Room 245 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Jenna Klink, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; and V. Koundinya, K. Kies, C. Robinson, and A. Rao

Useful to Usable (U2U) is a USDA-funded, Purdue University-led, research and extension project focused on improving the uptake of climate information by Midwestern U.S. farmers and agricultural advisors. Long-term outcomes are for farmers to make more informed decisions that help them, society, and the environment. Our interdisciplinary team interacts regularly with end-users to ensure U2U products (online decision support tools) and resources are both useful and usable. How do we make sure that end-users know about and trust the products, understand how they fit into the decisions they make, and realize the agronomic and economic value of incorporating them into their decision making? How do we know if these efforts, which can be time and resource intensive, actually make a difference?

Many people equate evaluation with accountability, but it is also (and possibly more importantly) for YOU to learn and improve as you develop and implement products/projects/programs/etc.

Extension educators, marketing specialists, and program evaluators from University of Wisconsin Environmental Resources Center, Iowa State University, Purdue University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois, and University of Missouri are charged with promoting U2U's products and collecting, analyzing, and communicating data to 1) help increase project impact as products are rolled out and 2) to measure impact for accountability purposes. Program evaluation has been fully integrated into the U2U project from its inception.

This presentation will highlight the methods used and lessons learned from team member interviews (to assess team functioning) and product usability testing with target audiences (discussing a partnership with UserTesting.com and also using online surveys). We will give an overview of other aspects of the project's evaluation design, including evaluation of outreach and dissemination approaches (both in-person outreach and via a media campaign), and longer-term outcome/impact evaluation. Some key metrics include the likelihood of using U2U online tools, actual use of tools, use of tools to aid financial and environmental decisions, and willingness to consider climate information in the future (not limited to U2U tools).

Information on the U2U Project's products: AgClimate View DST showcases customized historical climate and corn/soybean yield data for the U.S. Corn Belt. Growing Degree Day DST allows users to track real-time and historical GDD accumulations, assess spring and fall frost risk, and guide decisions related to planting, harvest, and seed selection. Climate Patterns Viewer DST shows how global climate patterns like the El Niņo Southern Oscillation and Arctic Oscillation have historically affected local climate conditions and crop yields across the U.S. Corn Belt. Corn Split Nitrogen DST helps determine the feasibility and profitability of using post-planting nitrogen application for corn production, combining historical data on crop growth and fieldwork conditions with economic considerations.

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