Designing and Evaluating Decision Support Tools (DSTs)

Science Center Objects

Effective environmental management requires integrating scientific information into complex decision making processes.

Studies of decision support tools (DSTs) in a range of contexts have shown these tools provide powerful means to facilitate widely-acceptable decisions by facilitating understanding between stakeholders and technical experts. Decision support tools also have their limitations, however. Their effectiveness is influenced by the social and institutional context in which they are created and implemented. Social and institutional factors that constrain tool usability are poorly understood since, to date, studies of DSTs have tended to be single-case examinations of pilots or proof-of-concept studies. The DST evaluation project addresses this gap by focusing on the adoption of decision support tools from both sides: that of tool creators and that of current and potential tool users. From the tool user side, the project aims to understand how managers choose to use (or not use) particular decision support tools in specific decision making processes. From the tool creator side, the project seeks to add to understanding of how tool creators (including those in USGS as well as other government agencies and universities) approach their work, including aspects such as idea generation, funding, tool development, design, and outreach. By juxtaposing the practices of those who require usable science for decision making and those who seek to create usable science, the project uncovers opportunities for better matching how the two groups go about their work.