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August 20, 2018

REE Key Performance Indicators Development

The GSA Data and Analytics Center of Excellence (CoE) teamed up with GSA’s Fed2Fed Solutions team to help USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area agencies develop an improved set of organization-wide key performance indicators (KPIs). In May, REE was tasked by USDA Deputy Secretary Censky to identify a more robust set of key performance indicators, with a focus on output-oriented measures that capture the full value of REE agencies’ contributions to the mission area goal. REE’s four agencies are “dedicated to the creation of safe, sustainable, competitive U.S. food and fiber system and strong, healthy communities, families, and youth through integrated research, analysis and education.” REE’s four agencies are:

  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
  • Economic Research Service (ERS)
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

Given REE’s core focus on research, performance management metrics had typically centered on counts of patents, publications, and technology transfers originating from within REE agencies. The time lag between research advances and their practical application in the field (as much as 10 years or more) has always made performance measurement of outcomes within research organizations especially challenging. REE engaged the Data and Analytics CoE to explore how other research agencies in government were measuring performance and to facilitate a series of sessions to brainstorm a broader set of metrics.

The Data and Analytics CoE partnered with GSA’s Fed2Fed Solutions team, who had recently provided performance measurement training at USDA, to host an initial brainstorming session with a dozen performance measurement experts from REE’s agencies. The CoE then facilitated two additional brainstorming sessions, building on findings of the initial session. During the course of these sessions, the REE team followed a systematic process to build consensus on key consumers of REE products and the outcomes that would be most meaningful to them.

Flow chart

Development Process for KPIs and Supporting Metrics

The result of the sessions was a set of two high-level KPIs and eight supporting metrics, as well as a detailed action plan for each metric to finalize reporting procedures. The reporting action plans identify ownership for each metric and detail data sources, reporting timelines, and potential barriers or risks. Over the next few months and with continued support from the CoE, REE performance management staff will work within their agencies to initiate the process for reporting on the new metrics on a quarterly basis. Ultimately, the new metrics will be incorporated into the next USDA department-wide strategic plan. The extensive work by REE’s performance management team, bolstered by manpower and outside thinking from GSA teams, will help transform how REE’s four agencies contributions to resilient, sustainable, and efficient agricultural systems are viewed both within and outside of USDA.

The following measures and KPIs are in working form, and are subject to revisions.

Proposed Measure #1: REE technologies and data are relevant and useful to consumers, producers, regulators, industry, and the scientific community, to further improve their utility and advance adoption of technologies.

Performance and Evidence

Key Performance Indicator Data:

  • Ratio of licenses to patents
  • Requests for germplasms
  • Number of REE datasets accessed or downloaded by users external to REE
  • Percent of users accessing or downloading REE datasets who report that confidence in data quality is high or very high
  • Number of times REE research was used to develop regulations or support evidence-based decisions>

Proposed Measure #2: REE’s contribution to developing an agriculture sciences workforce capable of meeting existing and future challenges.

Performance and Evidence

Key Performance Indicator Data:

  • Percent of vacant agriculture positions for which students are currently being trained or educated through REE programs
  • Number of interns employed by REE
  • Number of post-docs working with REE

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