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CH 6: Develop Your Project Evaluation

While implementing your project, it must be evaluated regularly to see if it is meeting its purpose and delivering useful data. The goal is to adjust your project based on the evaluation’s findings. This chapter will help you plan your evaluation – when it will take place, who will carry it out, what questions you will ask, and how you will record the answers to those questions.

When is the evaluation?

Scheduling periodic reviews of your citizen science project improves the likelihood that the evaluations will be conducted when needed. Evaluations are typically done after the project’s first year or season. All aspects of the project don’t necessarily need to be reviewed at the same time, at the same intervals, or by the same individuals.

 

Who will perform the evaluation?

Determine who will be the individuals responsible for carrying out the evaluation.

  • Independent Reviewers – Reviewers without a vested interest in the project can assist the review process by providing an outside perspective and by addressing issues that participants may find controversial or hard to discuss honestly. Scientists or government researchers can recommend independent reviewers.
  • Project Team – Forest Service personnel and partners can also be evaluators. If any or all partners were not involved in developing the project, their involvement in the evaluation process would enable them to become more familiar with the project and gain a new or expanded interest in the project’s success.
  • Volunteers – It would be highly beneficial during the implementation step to have a feedback mechanism from the volunteer group.

 

What are the questions?

Identify the questions you must answer. Some of these questions should be asked of volunteers – it is important to know their opinions on what worked and what didn’t. Answers to these questions can be either quantitative (for instance, numerically scored questionnaires) or qualitative (such as group discussions).

Some evaluation questions can be found in the USFS General Technical Report Broadening Participation in Biological Monitoring: Handbook for Scientists and Managers. Take a look at these questions below and see which are applicable to your citizen science project.

  • Is the chosen participatory approach the best way to meet identified needs for biodiversity or land management and other project goals (i.e. goals for public engagement)?
  • Is the documented project plan adequate and useful?
  • Should the project be discontinued at some point, and if so, when or under what circumstances?
  • Do project monitoring goals or targeted indicators need to be altered?
  • Were any contextual considerations overlooked?
  • Is the organizational structure of the project meeting the needs of the participants and achieving the goals of the project?
  • Does the project adequately represent all interested stakeholders and have a sufficient number of participating individuals?
  • Are the project partners and volunteers communicating and making decisions well?
  • Are participants’ needs and expectations being met? Are there any difficulties with sustaining involvement and commitment? Is the project stagnating or becoming inflexible?
  • Are the participants finding the experience personally rewarding?
  • Have participant skills and expertise been appropriately matched to tasks?
  • Are resources being budgeted and used efficiently? Are additional resources needed to achieve the goals?
  • Is the project being conducted in a safe manner?
  • Are training, field procedures, logistical arrangements, and support activities adequate?
  • Are the sampling design and protocols adequate and appropriate?
  • Have education outcomes been achieved for K-12 programs?

    Individual participants should also be evaluated to make sure protocols are being followed so data is reliable. This usually happens by compiling notes from data and sharing the best examples. If there are a significant amount of mistakes it might be best to display examples anonymously and without embarrassing anyone. Some less common mistakes might be best discussed on an individual basis.

 

How will the answers be recorded?

Determine how you will record, summarize, and document the evaluation. That way, the results can be more easily incorporated into project revisions.

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