Several characteristics distinguish the IAS National Program from other national programs, so it is therefore designed differently. Distinguishing features include increased emphasis on stakeholder participation and on-farm research approaches. Projects addressing the entire spectrum of agricultural approaches and management strategies and philosophies are included in this national program. Information transfer will be facilitated through interactions and by assembling large databases that include background and management information as well as data from experiments conducted at scales much greater than traditional projects. Specific project attributes will include
- A complete initial assessment of the current situation to understand the system. This understanding is needed to identify problem(s) as opposed to problem symptoms and to identify gap(s) in knowledge and/or information delivery;
- Active participation by producers and stakeholders in 'on-farm' and/or 'controlled' studies;
- Interdisciplinary teams and multi-organizational collaborators;
- The science of interactions among components as well as with the entire 'system' and the 'environments' in which they operate;
- Optimum use of long-term studies to provide information for short-term answers while striving to quantify the long-term impacts associated with various options or system scenarios;
- The infrastructure to address problems of regional and/or national scope when appropriate, which may require developing projects across ARS locations;
- A fully documented database management plan and quality assurance/quality control protocol;
- Maximum use of natural ecological and biological resources where appropriate, considering diverse production options;
- The appropriate scale for the research objectives and goals of all partners, stakeholders, and cooperators involved in planning, conducting, and interpreting the data; and
- Economic and environmental risk and social impact assessments.
In addition to specific project attributes, several mechanisms will differentiate the IAS National Program from other national programs. These will include mechanisms to
- Incorporate information from other national programs and diverse sources and fields such as economics, marketing, and sociology;
- Exchange information with and disseminate research information to clients, partners, stakeholders, and those who are doing basic research;
- Conduct periodic evaluations with all partners, cooperators, and stakeholders to ensure relevant progress in addressing their needs and requirements; and
- Foster a national focus by encouraging more frequent interaction among scientists contributing to this program to prompt sharing of new technologies, insights, and techniques for analysis.