ThinkSpatial: Amanda Cravens
Effective decision support tools: The importance of understanding user experiences and institutional barriers to doing so
Social and Economic Analysis Branch, US Geological Survey
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Abstract: Adapting to climate change and variability, and their associated impacts, requires integrating scientific information into complex decision-making processes. Recognizing this challenge, there have been widespread calls for information providers and scientists to work closely with decision makers to ensure they produce datasets and tools that meet real-world needs. Despite the emphasis on integrating user needs into the design of resources, tool developers often do not understand the range of ways their tools are actually incorporated into the decisions of potential users nor the reasons why someone might opt not to use a seemingly-relevant tool. Therefore, there is a need to better understand the specific social and institutional factors that influence why users use (or do not use) particular resources as well as the strategies that tool developers use to engage with users. Using the Upper Colorado River Drought Early Warning System as a case study, this study explored both the process of tool development and the process by which tool users find relevant information for drought decision making. Understanding these two groups’ experiences suggests ways to more effectively design and implement decision support tools in the future.
Bio: Amanda Cravens is a Research Social Scientist with the US Geological Survey’s Social and Economic Analysis Branch in Fort Collins, CO. Amanda’s interdisciplinary research interests include the translation of scientific information into decision making, policies and institutions that influence environmental management, and understanding the cognitive and social processes that make decision support tools work effectively. She is also very interested in the practice of interdisciplinary science and has served as a member of multiple working groups as well as published on the role of creativity in science. She earned her PhD from Stanford University’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources and her MA in Geography from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand).
The objective of the ThinkSpatial Forum is to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research and teaching, broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines among faculty and graduate students, and encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.