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Scaling up co-produced climate-driven decision support tools for agriculture

Abstract

There is growing belief that the co-production of knowledge between academics and non-academics is critical to address sustainability problems. Yet, little is known about what happens after co-production and whether and how co-produced knowledge scales up. This article focuses on climate-driven decision support tools co-produced by researchers, farmers and agricultural advisers in the US Midwest. Through two surveys (N = 5,393) with farmers and agricultural advisers, it examines how engagement and marketing campaigns to disseminate the tools influenced their use. Here we find that beyond the highly iterative co-production process, other forms of user interaction such as outreach engagement and marketing campaigns are critical to scale up the impact of co-produced knowledge. Positively, we also show that most surveyed farmers and advisers who were not involved in the engagement phase reported having their needs met by the co-produced tools and were using, considering using or willing to recommend the climate-driven decision support tools. Hence, while co-production alone does not guarantee dissemination, it does increase knowledge fit and use. Dissemination for mass use, however, might require a committed effort from researchers and funders to promote and evaluate use post co-production to better understand societal impact and the role of co-produced knowledge in addressing sustainability problems.

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Fig. 1: The U2U project.

Data availability

The advisers and farmers survey data and associated questionnaires that support the findings of this study are available in Purdue University Research Repository with identifiers https://doi.org/10.4231/R78W3BBV and https://doi.org/10.4231/R7G44N9S (refs. 41,43).

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Acknowledgements

This research was part of ‘Useful to Usable (U2U): Transforming Climate Variability and Change Information for Cereal Crop Producers’ and was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68002-30220 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, project website: http://www.AgClimate4U.org. The U2U project team was composed of faculty, staff and students from the following land grant and other universities: Purdue University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, South Dakota State University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Wisconsin. M.C.L. was also supported by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program Office (grant no. NA15OAR4310148). We also thank L. Esman (Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University) for editorial assistance and K. Paine for graphic design assistance.

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J.L., M.C.L. and L.S.P. designed the research; J.L., M.C.L., V.K. and L.S.P. performed the research; J.L. analysed the data; L.S.P. supervised and administrated the project; L.S.P. acquired funding; J.L. and M.C.L. wrote the initial draft; J.L., M.C.L., V.K. and L.S.P. reviewed and revised the draft.

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Correspondence to Junyu Lu or Linda S. Prokopy.

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Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks Suraje Dessai and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Fig. 1 and Tables 1–4.

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Lu, J., Lemos, M.C., Koundinya, V. et al. Scaling up co-produced climate-driven decision support tools for agriculture. Nat Sustain 5, 254–262 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00825-0

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