MS-A Thesis Final Defense: Laura Young

July 17, 2020 12:00 PM


Perceptions of Decision Support System Success: Lessons from the North Central Region


Decision support systems (DSS) have been utilized extensively over the last two decades to enhance problem-framing, help structure decisions around complex natural resource issues, increase end-user learning, and enrich group collaboration. However, these tools are rarely evaluated for their actual impact on decision-making or learning. In the limited literature that explores DSS evaluation, challenges commonly encountered by DSS developers include low rates of adoption, limited end-user participation in DSS development, and issues with securing long-term maintenance. To further investigate the benefits and challenges associated with decision support tools, this research explores the extent to which four DSS have been successfully deployed to facilitate decision-making and support agricultural conservation within the North Central Region of the United States. The Agricultural Conservation Planning Framework, the Daily Erosion Project, the Great Lakes Watershed Management System, and the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast have been utilized in multiple states to improve land management and conservation delivery.

Conducting interviews with both developers and end-users of these systems, I found that these DSS are used to improve planning and implementation of conservation practices, prioritize outreach activities, and enhance farmer engagement. However, adoption of the systems has been mixed, ranging from a system becoming embedded within organizational procedures to a system showing infrequent use by its intended audience. The sustainability of such systems is threatened by a lack of consistent funding and the potential to lose key personnel that either possess the technical knowledge or social influence to maintain and promote the system. Despite challenges, the process of developing and deploying these systems provided value to DSS stakeholders. Three of the DSS serve as boundary objects, fostering collaboration among diverse sets of organizations, and two of the systems are enabling innovative conservation programs that use resources more efficiently and effectively to address agricultural and water quality issues.

Committee Members

Steven Gray (Chairperson), Associate Professor
Doug Bessette, Assistant Professor
Ruth Kline-Robach, Outreach Specialist

Tags: csus, decision science, department of community sustainability, ms-a thesis defense