Developing and Testing Science Communication Models

The introduction of new production practices and emerging technologies can be greatly facilitated by a solid foundation of socioeconomic analysis aimed at understanding decision-making and adoption behavior.  When faced with a complex decision on whether to engage in new practices or the adoption of new technologies, agricultural producers may be motivated differently to act or not act based on a variety of internal and external influences including their personal values and beliefs, the beliefs of those they trust, potential or current regulations, level of knowledge, and prior experience.  Public opinion also impacts decision-making as consumers ultimately choose what products they are willing to purchase based on price and how they were produced.  Current research suggests cognitive indicators, contextual considerations, and multivariate influences focused on factors that relate to risk/gain, culture/demographics, values/beliefs and specific knowledge all need to be considered in the decision-making process related to emergent technologies and best management practices. Therefore, there is a need to develop models that explain the process agricultural producers and the public go through when making decisions related to agricultural technologies and best management practices.

In addition, scientists must effectively communicate their findings in order for agricultural producers to adopt and/or the public to support their novel ideas. When used correctly, science communication can increase knowledge levels, positively influence values and beliefs and ensure decision-making is done from an informed perspective. However, the way scientific information is delivered (the context and platform) and who delivers the information (the source) can be critical to its effectiveness. Therefore, there is a need to create roadmaps that take decision-making processes into account to assist scientists in communicating their findings to both agricultural producers and the public.

The primary goal of this Hatch project (#1021735), supported by the USDA, is to develop and test theoretical models that examine how cognitive indicators, contextual considerations and multivariate influences interact in the decision-making process. A secondary goal of the project is to use the findings to inform the development of science communication interventions that will be tested to see if they are impacting decision-making with the expectation that decisions will be made from an informed perspective.