ANR Employees
University of California
ANR Employees

2014 New Call for Positions

2014 URS Call for Positions

This proposal has been formally submitted for the 2014 cycle.

Position Details

085 Extension Methods and Evaluation Specialist

Proposed Location/Housing

ESPM, UC Berkeley (pending faculty approval)

Proposed Area of Coverage

Statewide

Contacts

Associated Documents

Comments

8 Comments

1
I think this position would enhance UCCE's capabilities in important ways, in formalizing both extension methods and project evaluation. I suggest specifying in the PD that project evaluation would include not just extension output measures such as numbers attending or even interim outcomes such as attitude and behavior change but also resource and environmental outcomes such as changes in soil attributes, nutrient cycling, air and water quality impacts, and other ecosystem service effects. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.
Posted Jun 12, 2014 7:53 AM by Don Hodge
1.1
In response to Don Hodge: I agree that tying social science variables such as attitudes and behavior to biophysical science variables such as environmental outcomes would be an important advancement. it would be reasonable to expect this this position to favor a candidate who has social science and (not or) biophysical science training.
Posted Jun 16, 2014 7:43 PM by Matthew Hoffman
2
I think this position is a very good idea. Depending on the crop, there still is a large gap between research and what gets implemented on the farm. This position would focus on how to improve the extension of the good research being done by UC researchers and staff. I agree with Don's suggestion about focusing on resource and environmental outcomes as well as economic outcomes.
Posted Jun 13, 2014 10:20 AM by Cliff Ohmart
3
I am confident that the proposed position would greatly benefit to UCCE. Extension operates in a very different world today than it did in the past. This position description directly addressed two key issues that I feel are important for the future of UCCE. First, the modern "knowedge system" is comprised of more than researchers, specialists, farm advisers, and growers. Today, we see many other highly trained professionals including PCAs, consultants, governmental agencies, grower associations, and growers themselves playing an extension-like role and informing growers' management decisions. Understanding this complex knowledge system and identifying ways of managing it to the benefit of grower learning is clearly within the realm of an extension-minded social scientist. Second, the use on on-line platforms including social media is increasingly common in agricultural extension. While such technologically will never replace real human relationships, it is surely one tool extensionists can, and some argue should, learn to use effectively. These on-line platforms have the potential to reduce the costs of extension and reach broader audiences. Investing in these platforms is one way of "future proofing" extension.

In my experience, extension program evaluation, which is included in this position proposal, is something that has a large benefit but is seldom done. One reasons that this is the case is because most extensists don't have the training or resources necessary to develop evaluation tools (surveys) and analyze the data. This position could help extensionists implement evaluation tools, analyze data, and apply the results to refining their extension strategies. Such applied social science research could sum up to develop a set of UCCE-wide extension "best management practices".

Filling this position with a social scientist, as the authors recommend, would be an innovative step toward modernizing the work of extensioin. The social sciences have a great deal to offer in terms of bringing empirical methods to bear on understanding grower behaviors such as farm management decision-making, practice adoption, and participation in extension activities. The right individual would could apply social science theories and methods to develop new and creative extension strategies for connecting those with questions to those with solutions. Research focusing on how growers learn is as important to extension as the research that focuses on what they should learn. Outside of economics, few social scientists have had the opportunity to make a substantial contribution to UCCE. This position would bringing the social sciences lens to bear on extension. Specifically, the method of social network analysis can be applied to developing extension strategies that take advantage of the fact that growers often learn best from from their peers. Social network analysis has proven its practical worth in the private sector where it has been used to analyze and strengthen employee information sharing network. This methodology has clear application in UCCE.
Posted Jun 16, 2014 7:38 PM by Matthew Hoffman
4
There is no doubt this is a needed position in UCANR. The specialist will bring social science eval methods to bear on farmer decision-making and program outcomes, including use of information technology. I just published a paper on Extension 3.0, which recommends hiring a person like this. There are a ton of people in UCCE and other organizations who are trying to evaluate programs and use innovative communication approaches based on networks and information technology. We only have anecdotal information on how well these programs work, and best practices. This position could provide a more systematic understanding, and train people in the best practices. Therefore it has major system-wide benefits. My only question about the benefits of this position is why ESPM? There are way more people at UC Davis working on these sorts of programs.
Posted Jun 17, 2014 10:02 AM by Mark Lubell
5
I am pleased to see that there is interest in creating a position to assist and assess extension methods and evaluations. The suggestion to have this position filled with a PhD level candidate with experience in social and biological sciences is a noteworthy ambition. There is a tremendous amount of expertise and specialized support coming from the UCCE system, which continues to be a leader in providing science based information for agricultural communities in California and beyond. The responsibilities and territories of those talented specialists is ever increasing. As a result, the assessment of program efficacy and evaluation and interpretation of knowledge gain by the grower audience less perhaps less present on the agenda of extension experts. Internal support with program assessment and best outreach methods would do much to improve adoption of practices and knowledge gain by the community of practice, as well as diversify outreach methods.

Future adoption of multiple platforms for extension outreach is imperative for improving the scope of audience reached. The shift from one-on-one communication to methods of mass communication has been evident in the past decade as the size of the outreach audience has grown. I agree with statements above that social media is not a suitable replacement for personal communication and face time by extension personnel, but the potential is there to improve the reach of current program information to a wider audience. Long term evaluation of program impacts is also important for demonstrating the benefits of regional programs, strengthening the case for continued support by stakeholders and funding agencies.

I feel strongly that the proposed position would do much to advance education and outreach by UCCE, strengthening future efficacy and support for extension.
Posted Jul 2, 2014 3:13 PM by Fritz Westover
6
I support the proposed position, which promises to formalize and improve our understanding of the extension process (thus making it more effective and efficient), by leveraging and extending the substantial body of research in the social sciences on behavior change and program evaluation. This position promises to broadly improve extension by applying methods and findings from that body of research to the specific issues faced by UCCE. The position provides an important complement to existing expertise in the agricultural and natural sciences in UCANR and UCCE specifically, and creates an important link between social scientists, natural scientists, advisors and other stakeholders.
Posted Jul 8, 2014 9:43 AM by Vicken Hillis
7
When this person is evaluated, will they really get credit for working with UCCE Advisors in improving their program impact? It does not sound like something that members of a department would give much credit for. As a Farm Advisor, evaluating extension methodologies is not a big part of my program. So this new position would be mostly providing short-term technical assistance to us. I hope s/he can get rewarded for that.
Posted Jul 15, 2014 3:08 PM by Maxwell Norton
8
I am not sure how this position would actually impact CE methods. This position concept is basically an ‘internal’ position which has as its goal to improve the way we do things. Perhaps akin to support staff in that respect, but with an academic objective. However, since we have fewer and fewer Front line Advisors or Specialists in number, . don’t we want more people on the front lines, who are actually delivering to our clientele, and visible in their service? When our clientele is looking for expertise, they are in all likelihood looking for something more specific – e.g. range management, pest management, animal health, nutrition, water policy, human development, Master Gardeners, etc.., not ‘how do we do outreach or evaluation’…….

I would be unsure how this positions would have actual Impact on the outreach success of Individual Programs of ANR. How will it actually help ‘deliver the goods’? Especially the implementation part. For example, we’ve known for more than 20 years that web-based or other types of electronic outreach are important, but there has been miniscule support to develop these resources for any given program – and most people have had to wing it on their own.
Although it's interesting to see 'what works' - if this position doesn't actually help with implementation, It seems that this position might satisfy administrator’s management curiosity about the best way to do things, but have little impact on our clientele, at least visibly.
Posted Jul 21, 2014 12:59 PM by Daniel Putnam

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