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Title: Product Evaluation from Theory to Practice: Lessons from Efficacy studies of Assistive Technology Products
Authors: Vathsala I Stone
Published: 2007
Publication: Annual Meeting of the American Evaluation Association. Baltimore, MD

This paper reports on two product evaluation studies recently completed at the University at Buffalo and discusses lessons learnt from the findings. The studies seek to assess the efficacy of products transferred to the marketplace by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC) for the benefit of persons with disabilities, and thereby validate and document the transfer process and its impacts. Using the systems approach as framework where the role of evaluation is to enlighten decisions of design, development and commercialization, the paper compares the evaluative procedures followed in the case of the two products and points out implications for both beneficiaries (end users) and industry stakeholders (manufacturers). While drawing lessons about evaluations that are inadequate, incomplete or untimely in terms of maximizing evaluation potential, the paper also acknowledges barriers to translating product evaluation theory into practice. Considering the crucial role of industry in delivering quality products to the marketplace and recognizing its potential to do so, the paper calls to attention two reality checks: limited evaluation capacity and expertise in industries on the one hand, and limited business experience at academic centers on the other. It opens up discussion of ways to improve evaluation practice, including academic-business partnerships.

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