Resource Science Division Information Needs and Evaluation Proposals

for Fiscal Year 2008


April 2006


Facilitating development of projects will primarily be the responsibility of Resource Science supervisors who will act as liaisons with divisions, Regional Coordination Teams (RCTs), and Resource Science Division (RSD) staff.  Resource Scientists will continue to play the primary role in soliciting input from managers and other partners and in developing the scientific framework for each program of study.  


The capacity for expanded research, evaluation, and surveys will be determined annually by projected division budget and staff resources.  New research and evaluations should be focused on the highest priority departmental and divisional information needs and balanced with existing projects.  Guidance for emphasis should come from departmental and divisional strategic plans (e.g. Next Generation, RSD guidance).  Although we will continue to emphasize management issues, not all studies will be candidates for an adaptive management approach (ARM).  Experimental approaches, pilot survey efforts, or literature reviews resulting in white papers may be favored approaches to specific information needs.  Regardless, the emphasis will be on incorporating a decision theoretic approach into our existing proposal framework (See Attachment E).  The decision theoretic approach involves focusing on management and policy objectives, our existing experience and knowledge, areas of uncertainty, predictions about resource / public response to management decisions, and the monitoring needed to measure outcomes.  The following schedule for developing information needs is driven by fiscal constraints for budget development and by work objective planning.  However, we urge staff to consult with collaborators year round; do not wait until “a call” for information needs occurs. Developing information needs is a year – round process.  


Note that urgent information needs and associated evaluations may go through the proposal review process at any time.  Because availability of “external” funds is not often predictable, evaluations with the potential to be funded wholly or substantially by non-MDC funds also can proceed through the review process at any time. The proposal process remains the same; time lines can be adjusted to correspond to the timing of funding commitments or urgent information demands.


Proposals will be developed according to the following schedule:


April-May:  Identify the information need and develop a one page proposal.


·         RSD Supervisors ensure that other divisions and RCTs have a basic understanding of the decision theoretic approach and how it is used to develop proposals.

·         RSD Supervisors engage other divisions and RCTs by explaining ongoing projects and direction and by determining highest priority information needs and management evaluations. 

·         RSD supervisors solicit RSD staff recommendations for a limited number of highest priority evaluation needs in the form of one page proposals (scientists solicit input from collaborating managers and other partners).  Potential sources of candidate projects should include Next Generation of Conservation, Comprehensive Wildlife Strategy, division guidance, RSD strategic planning, previously deferred projects, field station workshop issues, Diversity Fund proposals, contact with other divisions and partners, and so on.  Evaluation planning should include biometrics, data management, and GIS in the identification of information needs.  Supervisors will review each one page proposal and decide whether the proposal should be submitted for consideration by RSD supervisors.  The format for one page proposals is in Attachment A.




June:  Prioritize and approve one page proposals for further development.


·         After review and approval by RSD supervisors, one page proposals are submitted to Sharepoint by project leaders by June 1.  These proposals will be reviewed by RSD supervisors at their June retreat to decide which will go forward (completed no later than mid-June).

·         Proposal development and work group participation should be reflected in work plans for the next fiscal year (completed by first week in July).

·         RSD supervisors communicate to other divisions and RCTs the status of candidate proposals.


July-October: Develop a budget proposal and conduct the critical review.


·         RSD Supervisors facilitate collaborator work sessions with staff from the field stations, Resource Science Center, Central Office, other divisions, and other partners to develop budget proposals using the decision theoretic approach.  Where this approach has been used for a similar concept, previous models should be the basis for further work sessions.  Key internal partners for concept development include biometrics, database management, and GIS staff.  From these sessions, the Project Leader develops a budget proposal with sufficient design to determine a budget.  All collaborators engage in final review of budget proposals by September 30 prior to the critical review among all RS staff and collaborators. 

·         Presentation of proposals and associated critical reviews will be conducted on each Wednesday and Thursday during the month of October.  Some reviews will be held at other locations around the state. This schedule will better allow for all participants to plan for travel.


November-January 15: Prepare the final proposal; report status of on-going projects.


·         The final proposal with detailed budget is developed by January 15.

·         Project Leaders continue follow-up communication with other divisions and RCTs.

·         Supervisors work with staff to incorporate project responsibilities into work plans during mid-year service review.

·         Annual progress reports for all projects and one page Science Notes will be developed for selected ongoing projects; these will be reviewed with supervisors during mid-year service reviews.



February: Revise the budget as necessary.


·         RSD Supervisors submit final budget request for new and ongoing evaluations.





Resource Science Division Guidelines for Proposals to Evaluate Natural Resource Issues in Missouri


Missouri Department of Conservation

Resource Science Division

(Revised 22 March 2006)





Scientific evaluations done well provide the credible information and accountability needed by Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) decision makers to address a host of natural resource issues.  Such evaluations hinge on well-defined objectives and efficient study designs.  The guidelines herein discuss essential steps for developing evaluation proposals to be considered for full or partial funding by Resource Science Division (RSD); the guidelines are flexible provided the quality of the study is ensured.  Every proposal will be represented by a project leader, who is a RSD staff member functioning as the primary principal investigator or as the primary collaborator and administrative contact for evaluations not conducted by RSD staff.  Project leaders will use a team approach beginning early in proposal development.  The team may consist of MDC scientists, college/university scientists and students, MDC regional staff, biometricians, data managers, GIS staff, scientists from other agencies, and other key professionals. Constructive critical review is expected at all stages of the proposal development process.  The purpose of this review process is to use our collective thinking to develop projects that 1) are focused on our highest priority information needs and 2) make the best use of limited financial and human resources. 




The primary steps of the proposal process include defining a focused information need with the decision theoretic approach, reviewing previous information (literature and data), developing a one page proposal, developing a budget proposal for funding consideration, and developing a final proposal before work begins. Urgent information needs and associated evaluations may go through the proposal review process at any time.  Because availability of “external” funds is not often predictable, evaluations with the potential to be funded wholly or substantially by non-MDC funds also can proceed through the review process at any time.


1.   The Focused Information Need


The information need is clearly defined.  The project leader will consult with a RSD supervisor to discuss the relevance and timeliness of the need as well as available RSD staff time in light of current workloads.  Generally speaking, an information need will have more weight if it is consistent with MDC and division strategic plans compared to a need that is not.  Questions to consider include:


Ø      Can the information need be met with current information?

Ø      How will this information be used to improve management or policy decision making?

Ø      Is the information vital or peripheral at the department, division, or regional level?

Ø      Is the evaluation structured to acquire the information or is the evaluation a step toward that end?

Ø      Will the information be immediately applicable to the management or policy decision or are there circumstances (training needs, techniques development, workload considerations, social/political factors) limiting its applicability?

Ø      Are there near-term management or policy consequences if this information is not acquired?


Included in the information need is an explicit statement of what decision is being made and what uncertainties impede that decision.


2.   The Information Review


A review of the state of knowledge about the issue is conducted.  This review may provide the needed information or aid in structuring evaluation objectives.  Can the information need be met with current information?  If “yes,” then a white paper is prepared and delivered to appropriate audiences and posted on Sharepoint (http://sharepoint/resourcescience/Documents/Division%20Administration/FY08%20Projects/).  If “no,” then development of a one page proposal proceeds after discussion and approval from a supervisor.


3.   The One Page Proposal (June 1 deadline)


After approval from the RSD supervisor, a one page proposal (see Attachment A for format) will be submitted to Sharepoint (http://sharepoint/resourcescience/Documents/Division%20Administration/FY08%20Projects/).  The one page proposal will clearly identify all stakeholders who should be involved in the development of the budget proposal.  RSD supervisors will determine which one page proposals should go forward at a June supervisors meeting and provide the approved list back to staff immediately after the meeting.  The Science and Policy Support and GIS supervisors will ensure that the appropriate biometrics, data management, and GIS staff are assigned to each project so that they may participate in project development.


4.  Budget Proposal and Critical Review (October 31 deadline)


A budget proposal will be developed by a team (identified in the one page proposal) composed of the project leader, at least one biometrician, and other essential partners as determined by the project leader and a supervisor.  The RSD supervisor will facilitate the development of the budget proposal, which will follow the decision theoretic approach (Attachment E).  The budget proposal will be written in a standard format (see Attachment B) which includes a project title, the information need description and justification, decision elements, scope of work, expected benefits, potential cooperators, and preliminary budget.  (Note: Attachment B shows the standard format for the budget proposal and the final proposal; the budget proposal is intended to convey strategic details of the evaluation and the operational details to the degree needed to develop a budget, while the final proposal later conveys the final operational details and a complete study design).  For graduate student projects, the budget proposal usually will be written by project leader and the academic advisor and the final proposal by the student.


Well-defined objectives will be achievable within the stated project duration and schedule.  Projects with objectives involving research hypotheses will state an a priori statistical significance level.  The project justification will make the case for the information need in the context of current scientific knowledge, including a literature review.  When applicable, the justification will be tied to MDC and RSD strategic plans.  The statement of expected benefits should be brief and describe how project results will directly influence resource management activities or conservation policy decisions.  The evaluation approach will focus on methods, particularly in regard to experimental design, sampling techniques, sample sizes, and analytical procedures.  A detailed budget also will be developed in a standard format (see Attachment C).


The complete budget proposal will be reviewed by all team members and approved by the supervisor of the Resource Science principal investigator.  If approved, the proposal is submitted to Sharepoint (http://sharepoint/resourcescience/Documents/Division%20Administration/FY08%20Projects/ ) at least two weeks before it is verbally presented (see Attachment D) for critical review.  The RSD liaison will distribute copies of the proposal to RSD staff, and the project leader will distribute copies to other appropriate MDC staff as well as staff in other agencies.  The project leader is responsible for scheduling (through the RSD liaison) and announcing the verbal presentation of the proposal (the budget proposal review) and the principal investigator is responsible for presenting the proposal.  In the case of graduate student projects, the academic advisor or designee will present the proposal (Note: the student later develops and presents the full proposal).  Written comments may be sent to the project leader either before or after the verbal presentation.  Written comments must be addressed by the project leader. 


The purpose of the verbal presentation is constructive critical review of the project by those in attendance.  A supervisor will facilitate each budget proposal review and will ensure that discussion remains focused on the objectives, justification, expected benefits, and evaluation approach (including experimental design) (revisit questions in Step 1 above).  All RSD supervisors and staff are expected to attend as schedules allow. Immediately following the review, the RSD supervisor will discuss audience comments and get audience concurrence on any revisions needed for the proposal.  The facilitator will submit a written summary of this discussion to the project team within one week. 


For proposals by staff from MDC or other agencies, proceed to step 5.

For proposals by college or university students, proceed to step 6.


5.   The Final Proposal (Before project initiation)


The project leader and project team will adjust the budget proposal to include any revisions requested as a result of the oral presentation and all the operational details that fully describe the evaluation.  The final proposal should be such that a new principal investigator replacing the original could expeditiously continue the evaluation to successful completion.  In addition, additional elements will be elaborated (see Attachment B).  An RSD database manager will be consulted to develop metadata, variable codes, and database structures. The team should describe briefly how project information will be transferred to managers, researchers, policy makers, administrators, educators, the media, or citizens.  If mammals or birds will be held in captivity, the capture methods, restraint procedures, and holding facilities will be described in detail.


The project leader and team will be responsible for ensuring that review of the completed final proposal occurs not only within the team but also by other professionals chosen by team members (a verbal presentation of the final proposal is not necessary except for student projects as described below).  All critical reviewers will be listed on the proposal.


The project team will submit the final proposal and budget to a supervisor, who will ensure the proposal is complete and practical.  The supervisor will then post the final proposal and budget to Sharepoint (http://sharepoint/resourcescience/Documents/Division%20Administration/FY08%20Projects/).


6.   The Graduate Student Proposal and Critical Review


Research study design is an important aspect of the graduate education experience, so development of the final proposal is delayed until the student is selected by the graduate advisor.  With oversight from the graduate advisor and consultation from the project team, the student will prepare the final proposal (see Step 5 and Attachment B).  The proposal usually is completed during the student’s first semester but certainly before data collection begins (Note: this should be the graduate advisor’s call; there are many extenuating circumstances that preclude this, including some of our own making).  Critical review of the completed proposal is conducted by the graduate advisor, the project team, and other professionals; all reviewers are listed on the proposal.


The project leader submits the completed proposal and budget for final review to the RSD supervisor, who then posts it on Sharepoint (http://sharepoint/resourcescience/Documents/Division%20Administration/FY08%20Projects/ ) at least one week before it is verbally presented (see Attachment D) to RSD staff and others for critical review.  The RSD liaison will distribute copies of the proposal to RSD staff, and the project leader will distribute copies to other appropriate MDC staff as well as staff in other agencies.  The project leader is responsible for scheduling (through the RSD liaison) and announcing the verbal presentation of the proposal (the student review) and the student is responsible for presenting the proposal.  Facilitation and attendance by MDC staff is as outlined in Step 4.


Guidelines for Developing Cooperative Agreements with Universities


Normally MDC does not pay for the following items in a cooperative agreement: computers, printers, other hardware, GPS units, cameras, faculty salary, vehicle insurance, tuition, etc.  Staff should work with their supervisor as a cooperative agreement is developed to discuss any deviations from this guideline.  





One Page Proposal Submitted:                                            June 1

One Page Proposals for development approved                  mid-June

Budget proposal and review completed:                              October 31     

Final proposal and review completed:                                  January 15                                                                                                                    or before fieldwork begins for

                                                                                                student projects (see above Note)






A.  Project Title


            MDC Project Leader:

            Principal Investigator and affiliation (if not the Project Leader):

            Team members and affiliations: (include biometrics, GIS, database managers)

            File name:

B. Need/Justification (see step 1 and 2 above)

C.  Scope of Work

D.  Expected Benefits

E.  Project duration

F.  Preliminary Budget (within an order of magnitude)

G. Potential External Funding Sources


















A.  Project Title:

            MDC Project Leader:

            Principal Investigator and affiliation (if not the Project Leader):

            Team members and affiliations:

            Critical reviewers: (In Final Proposal Only)

            File name:

            Executive Summary:  A short paragraph describing what the project is about and why it                         is important.


B.   Information Need and Justification (include modest literature review and relevance to MDC and RSD strategic plans; address questions in Step 1)

            What is the decision being made?

            What uncertainty impedes that decision?


C.  Decision Elements


            Management Alternatives

            Models with predictions



D.  Expected Benefits (include direct effects on management or policy decisions)


E.   Approach

            Experimental design

            Data collection techniques

            Analytical procedures

            Database management/archival (In Final Proposal Only)


F.   Duration and Schedule


G.  Budget. The request must include vehicle needs, needs for computers and other specialized equipment, and office space needs for temporary employees. A budget spreadsheet (Attachment C) must be completed as part of the budget proposal.


H.  Potential Funding Sources


I.    Information transfer and database management / metadata elements (publications, popular articles, web, workshops, training) (In Final Proposal Only)


J.    Animal Use Protocol (If birds or mammals will be held in captivity, describe in detail the capture methods, restraint procedures, and holding facilities) (In Final Proposal Only)

      Other Information (such as data forms, sampling locations and schedule, database structures, and so on; before data collection begins) (In Final Proposal Only)





Attachment C:  Budget Spreadsheet (projectproposalbudget.xls)


The budget spreadsheet should be renamed with the same name as the budget proposal.  The budget spreadsheet will have an .xls extension and the budget proposal will have a .doc extension.  Both the proposal and spreadsheet must be posted on Sharepoint (http://sharepoint/resourcescience/Documents/Division%20Administration/FY08%20Projects/)

Attachment D.   Required Elements for Oral Presentation of the Budget Proposal




Principal Investigator (s):


Team Members:


Background: Why is this project important for managers or policy makers?


Location of the project:


Management Prediction or Objective: (clearly state the management prediction that includes the decision to be made linking traditional measures (e.g., acres affected, stakeholders contacted, etc.) as part of the objective). Answer the question: What is the resource management decision we are trying to inform and how does this relate to the desired management outcome?


Uncertainties: What are the uncertainties that impede the decision being made? State the nature of the system elements that are unknown or uncertain.


Management alternatives or treatments: Treatment effects must be measurable and significant enough to elicit a system response. 


Model of the system dynamics: Include biological, social, economic and physical factors.


Monitoring Protocols: What is the piece of information that would prompt you to change your management or policy decision? How are we going to measure the treatments?


Sampling Design


Statistical Analyses to be used


Duration and schedule: Month by year preferred


Information Transfer: How are you going to transfer information about the project to others?


Budget: Include temporary labor, expense and equipment and contributions from outside sources by fiscal year and total cost for the duration of the project.


Potential for outside funding: List active partners that may/will contribute dollars and/or in-kind support.   











Attachment E.  The Decision Theoretic Approach Used in the Development of Project Proposals


Much attention has been focused on adaptive resources management (ARM), and a fair amount of debate has resulted regarding traditional approaches to research, evaluation, and surveys.  The language of the debate includes “experiment, adaptive management, research, learning by doing, structured learning, decision theoretic approach, etc.”  Whether or not proposed projects ultimately are ARM candidates essentially is irrelevant.  However, the process of determining the relevance of the information gathered is of primary importance in setting budget, staffing, and work plan priorities.  A decision theoretic approach is a front-loaded process of project development that will involve focusing on management and policy objectives, our existing experience and knowledge, areas of uncertainty, predictions about resource / public response to management decisions, and the monitoring needed to measure outcomes. 


RSD in collaboration with other divisions, academics, and other natural resource agencies, will be a key catalyst to advancing the decision theoretic approach as a way of doing business in the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  This approach is useful for describing any natural resource management issue.  The solution depends on the impediments to solving the issue and could range from conflict resolution, an experiment, or active or passive ARM.  The PowerPoint presentation below outlines the decision theoretic approach and how the approach can lead to different solutions (double click on the slide below to view the 6-slide presentation).











Key initial questions include 1) “What is the decision being made?” and 2) “What uncertainty impedes that decision?”  Primary elements of the decision theoretic approach include:



1) Clearly stated objectives (How is this related to the policy or management decision?)  Explicit statements of management and policy objectives are essential to link traditional measures (e.g., acres affected, stakeholders contacted, etc.) to the ultimate outcomes that are reflected in strategic goals.



2) Management alternatives / treatments – limited in number and distinct enough in predicted effect that management impacts / experimental treatments are measurable and significant.  Collaboration with managers is essential for ARM candidates as a certain amount of management flexibility may be lost (at least perceived so) as management actions are “planned” in the course of deciding an approach.



3) A “model” of system dynamics to capture existing knowledge and management experience (i.e., models related to expected / predicted outcomes) – relationships among biotic, abiotic, and social elements should be reflected and linked to the management objective (the management objective can be expressed in terms of the management decision intended (also consider the frequency of the decision).  Primary sources of uncertainty among the model components should address the question: “What are the uncertainties impeding the management or policy decision?”


·        Ecological (Structural) Uncertainty

o       nature of system dynamics is not completely known

o       competing ideas about system response to management actions

·        Environmental Variation

·        Partial Controllability

o       management decision is applied to system indirectly

o       immediate effects of management actions are characterized by uncertainty

·        Partial Observability

o       the state of nature is rarely seen perfectly (estimation)


An example of a system model and predictions is attached.


4) A monitoring program - Focused monitoring should emphasize … “What is the piece of information that would prompt you to change your management or policy decision?”

Example of a system model and predictions from  Monitoring the Effects Silvicultural Treatments on Growth, Survival and Masting of Bare root and RPM® Planting Stock in private and public WRP Sites in Southeastern Missouri by Dawn Henderson




Model of System Dynamics






























1.         Model for RPM® planting stock











































2.         Model for bare root planting stock


3.         Model for soil (RPM species response).


4.         Model for soil (Bare root species response).