Assessing Benefits of the U.S. Forest Service's Geographic Information System

Research Design

by Cathy Stasz, Tora K. Bikson, John D. Eveland, John L. Adams

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This Note presents a research design developed to assess the impact of implementing a geographic information system (GIS) on mission-related work in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. It proposes systematic methods by which the agency can monitor the introduction of new GIS technology and assess its benefits. The authors recommend a hierarchical, nested design whose four levels — national, regional, forest, district — reflect the structure of the Forest Service as an organization. The research emphasizes the "tool" qualities of GIS technology over its technical properties per se. The authors propose two main types of hypotheses about the effects of GIS technology that would drive the evaluation: (1) by improving information accessibility and by providing better planning and analysis tools, GIS will improve mission-related actions; and (2) by improving monitoring (documentation) and updating processes, GIS will improve the available information base. The authors find that the basic research design and sampling procedure are feasible to carry out and yield a sound basis for the collection and analysis of data for evaluation purposes.

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