A Call for the Evaluation of Web-Based Climate Data and Analysis Tools

Kristin VanderMolen Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada

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Tamara U. Wall Division of Atmospheric Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada

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Britta Daudert Division of Hydrologic Sciences, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada

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Abstract

Researchers are producing an ever greater number of web-based climate data and analysis tools in support of natural resource research and management. Yet the apparent absence or underreporting of evaluation in the development of these applications has raised questions as to whether, by whom, and for what they are utilized, and, relatedly, whether they meet the rationale for their development. This paper joins recent efforts to address these questions by introducing one approach to evaluation—developmental evaluation—and reporting on its use in the evaluation of the Southwest Climate and Environmental Information Collaborative (SCENIC). A web interface under development at the Western Regional Climate Center, SCENIC provides access to climate data and analysis tools to environmental scientists in support of natural resource research and management in the southwestern United States. Evaluation findings highlight subtlety in the improvements necessary for ensuring a useful and usable application that could not have been ascertained in the absence of end-user feedback. We therefore urge researchers to systematically evaluate web-based climate data and analysis tools in the interest of ensuring their usefulness, usability, and fulfillment of the proposed rationale. In so doing, we recommend that researchers test and apply established evaluation frameworks, thereby engaging end users directly in the process of application development.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Kristin VanderMolen,kristin.vandermolen@dri.edu

Abstract

Researchers are producing an ever greater number of web-based climate data and analysis tools in support of natural resource research and management. Yet the apparent absence or underreporting of evaluation in the development of these applications has raised questions as to whether, by whom, and for what they are utilized, and, relatedly, whether they meet the rationale for their development. This paper joins recent efforts to address these questions by introducing one approach to evaluation—developmental evaluation—and reporting on its use in the evaluation of the Southwest Climate and Environmental Information Collaborative (SCENIC). A web interface under development at the Western Regional Climate Center, SCENIC provides access to climate data and analysis tools to environmental scientists in support of natural resource research and management in the southwestern United States. Evaluation findings highlight subtlety in the improvements necessary for ensuring a useful and usable application that could not have been ascertained in the absence of end-user feedback. We therefore urge researchers to systematically evaluate web-based climate data and analysis tools in the interest of ensuring their usefulness, usability, and fulfillment of the proposed rationale. In so doing, we recommend that researchers test and apply established evaluation frameworks, thereby engaging end users directly in the process of application development.

© 2019 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

CORRESPONDING AUTHOR: Kristin VanderMolen,kristin.vandermolen@dri.edu
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