Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCED SYSTEM MODELS AND DECISION SUPPORT TOOLS TO OPTIMIZE WATER LIMITED AGRICULTURE Title: Environmental decision support systems (EDSS)development- challenges and best practices

Authors
item Mcintosh, Brian -
item Ascough, James
item Twery, Mark -
item Chew, Jimmie -
item Elmahdi, Amgad -
item Haase, Dagnar -
item Harou, Julien -
item Hepting, Daryl -
item Cuddy, Susan -
item Jakeman, Anthony -
item Chen, Serena -
item Kassahun, Ayalew -
item Lautenbach, Sven -
item Matthews, Keith -
item Merritt, Wendy -
item Quinn, Nigel -
item Rodriguez-Roda, Ignasi -
item Sieber, Stefan -
item Stavenga, Marten -
item Sulis, Andrea -
item Ticehurst, Jennifer -
item Volk, Martin -
item Wrobel, Markus -
item Vandelden, Hedwig -
item El-Sawah, Sondoss -
item Rizzoli, A -
item Voinov, A -

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Modeling and Software
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 27, 2011
Publication Date: December 2, 2011
Citation: Mcintosh, B.S., Ascough II, J.C., Twery, M., Chew, J., Elmahdi, A., Haase, D., Harou, J., Hepting, D., Cuddy, S., Jakeman, A.J., Chen, S., Kassahun, A., Lautenbach, S., Matthews, K., Merritt, W., Quinn, N.W., Rodriguez-Roda, I., Sieber, S., Stavenga, M., Sulis, A., Ticehurst, J., Volk, M., Wrobel, M., Vandelden, H., El-Sawah, S., Rizzoli, A., Voinov, A. 2011. Environmental decision support systems (EDSS)development- challenges and best practices. Journal of Environmental Modeling and Software. 26(12):1389-1402.

Interpretive Summary: By drawing together the experience of a global group of EDSS developers, we have identified and assessed key challenges in EDSS development and offer recommendations to resolve them. Challenges related to engaging end-users in EDSS development emphasize the need for a participatory process that embraces true end users and stakeholders throughout the design and development process. Adoption challenges concerned with individual and organizational capacities to use EDSS can be overcome through the use of an internal champion to promote the EDSS at different levels of a target organization and coordinating/building development capacity within the organization. Significant challenges exist in relation to ensuring EDSS longevity and financial sustainability. Such business challenges may be met through planning and design that considers the overall system; the long-term costs of training, support, and maintenance; revenue generation and licensing by instituting processes which support communication and interactions. A final group of perhaps more problematic challenges relate to how the success of EDSS ought to be evaluated. Whilst success can be framed relatively easily in terms of interactions with end-users, difficulties of definition and measurability emerge in relation to the extent to which EDSS achieve intended outcomes. To tackle the challenges described, the authors provide a set of best practice recommendations concerned with promoting design for ease of use, design for usefulness, establishing trust and credibility, and promoting EDSS acceptance. Following these recommendations should enhance the achievement of successful EDSS adoption, but more importantly help facilitate the achievement of desirable social and environmental outcomes.

Technical Abstract: Despite the perceived value of DSS in informing environmental and natural resource management, DSS tools often fail to be adopted by intended end users. By drawing together the experience of a global group of EDSS developers, we have identified and assessed key challenges in EDSS development and offer recommendations to resolve them. Challenges related to engaging end-users in EDSS development emphasize the need for a participatory process that embraces true end users and stakeholders throughout the design and development process. Adoption challenges concerned with individual and organizational capacities to use EDSS and the match between EDSS and organizational goals can also be overcome through: 1) using an internal champion to promote the EDSS at different levels of a target organization; 2) coordinating and building development capacity within the organization; and 3) ensuring that developers maintain focus on developing EDSS which are relatively easy and inexpensive to use and update. Significant challenges exist in relation to ensuring EDSS longevity and financial sustainability. Such business challenges may be met through planning and design that considers the overall system; the long-term costs of training, support, and maintenance; revenue generation and licensing by instituting processes which support communication and interactions; and by employing software technology which enables easy model expansion and re-use to gain an economy of scale and reduce development costs. A final group of perhaps more problematic challenges relate to how the success of EDSS ought to be evaluated. Whilst success can be framed relatively easily in terms of interactions with end-users, difficulties of definition and measurability emerge in relation to the extent to which EDSS achieve intended outcomes. To tackle the challenges described, the authors provide a set of best practice recommendations concerned with promoting design for ease of use, design for usefulness, establishing trust and credibility, promoting EDSS acceptance, and starting simple and small in functionality terms. Following these recommendations should enhance the achievement of successful EDSS adoption, but more importantly, help facilitate the achievement of desirable social and environmental outcomes.

Last Modified: 10/20/2014