Decision support tools, usually considered to be software-, app-, or web-based products, offer the ability to provide evidence-based decision-making advice to practitioners. Such tools lead users through clear decision stages based on evidence, ultimately allowing practitioners to make a more informed, productive, and efficient decision. However, previous research in agriculture and other areas has found that uptake of decision support tools in practice is low. In other words, researchers from universities and industry have used resources to build tools which were seldom used by their desired users. This is a major problem for two reasons, 1) lack of uptake means that the aim of improving the evidence base for decisions is not realized, and 2) resources are wasted.
As part of Defra’s Sustainable Intensification Platform, the University of Cambridge (alongside other partners ADAS, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Nottingham and the University of Exeter) led a piece of work to find the reasons why farmers and advisers use, or do not use, decision support tools. Through the use of focus groups, surveys, and interviews, farmers across six sectors (Cereals, General Cropping, Dairy, Mixed, Lowland livestock, LFA livestock), as well as arable and livestock advisers, were asked about whether, and why, they used tools to inform their decisions. An open access paper published in Agricultural Systems, presents the results from this study. The research team argues that fifteen factors are influential in uptake and use of tools and present a checklist to inform the future design of tools. By paying attention to the fifteen points on the checklist, which include performance, ease of use, and peer recommendation, it is hoped that tools will be designed that make an impact in practice. In order to create the working environment in which these fifteen factors are considered in the design and delivery process, it is suggested that designers consider adopting the five-stage process below:
Designers of decision support tools in other areas could also benefit from a similar process.
For further information about this work, please contact the lead researcher Dr David Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org