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No.8: Donor methods to prioritise investments in agricultural research and development

No.8: Donor methods to prioritise investments in agricultural research and development

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A range of key policy recommendations on how donors can systematise their priority-setting process for research investments.
A range of key policy recommendations on how donors can systematise their priority-setting process for research investments.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Global Donor Platform for Rural Development on Nov 08, 2012
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01/09/2013

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Global Donor Platformfor Rural Development
Platform Policy Brief
T
Donor methods to prioritiseinvestments in agricultural research anddevelopment
POLICY CONTEXT
Agricultural research is essential to achieve the transformative change in agricultural productivityand dietary diversity needed to meet future global demand for nutritious and safe food. Faced withthe potential of limited growth in development assistance budgets, it is increasingly important toimprove the effectiveness of investments in agricultural research, including how to prioritiseresearch investments, and to compare investments in research with other nonresearch invest-ments.Further, the recent increase in donor interest in agricultural research for development (AR4D)brings the potential for overinvestment in priority areas―potentially saturating the capacity ofthe research infrastructure to absorb these resources, and leaving other important areas under-funded. Thus, understanding not only how priorities can be determined to facilitate individualdonor portfolio development, but also how donors’ portfolios can be complementary―especiallygiven the range of mechanisms donors use to deploy AR4D investments―is a key objective ofthis brief.
// Objectives
The detailed synthesis paper that this brief refers to aims to inform members of the Global DonorPlatform for Rural Development about approaches, methods and tools to assess and prioritiseresearch investments by presenting an academic review as well as case studies on how prioritieshave been assessed. It provides knowledge on how to articulate these processes into existingprogramming mechanisms.The comparative analysis of donor methods to allocate investments in agricultural research isbeneficial to present the range of possible approaches and identify strengths and gaps among thegreater donor community. Greater collaboration among donors may help to build and promote theuse of some objective methods and technical tools of mutual benefit.The synthesis paper that this briefrefers to• Describes the context in whichinvestments are selected in agri-cultural research• Reviews methods for agri-cultural research prioritisation• Describes mechanisms donors useto program agricultural researchresources• Suggests how donors might adjusttheir prioritisation strategies toimprove coordination and poten-tially increase impacts of theirportfolios
Platform policy briefsoutline the rationale forchoosing a particular policyalternative or course ofaction in a current policydebate. They guide decisionmakers with their choicesand advocate for a position.
.
Abouttheauthors
This policy brief was drafted byJennifer Long (USAID), ClaraCohen (USAID) and NikitaEriksen-Hamel (CIDA) on behalfof the Platform’s agriculturalresearch for development thema-tic stream. It is a summary of asynthesis paper with the sametitle written by George W. Nortonand Jeffery Alwang. Download at:www.donorplatform.org/load/11834
No. 8
//
October 2012
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)
 
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ANALYSIS
// Current donor approaches toinvestment prioritisation
Informal consultations were held with repre-sentatives from seven donor organisations todiscuss their current priority setting mecha-nisms. Representatives were interviewed fromBMZ, CIDA, DFID, EC, GIZ, OECD, USAID andthe Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.Most donors reported using informal processesto set priorities because they lack capacity,resources or staff time to conduct formal,technical priority setting exercises. Somedonors have at times engaged in formal prior-ity setting, but not on a regular basis. Donorsindicated that the provision of reliable evi-dence is their most important criterion inevaluating priority setting mechanisms.Several interviewees hinted that easier-to-use methods might lead to more widespreadformal priority setting.Donors had a favourable impression of analyt-ical methods, but none use them on a regularbasis. Some stated that increased sharing ofexperience among donors and formal collabo-ration with other donors might improve theirability to utilise these methods. Few have in-house capability to conduct the exercises.Some were concerned that the evidencebase―in favour of agricultural research―isweak for nonefficiency objectives. They feltthat much of the academic priority settingliterature focused too closely on efficiency,while many politicians currently favoured non-efficiency objectives.Donors are concerned about tradeoffsbetween objectives and would like means ofevaluating these tradeoffs when settingresearch priorities. In addition, there is aneed to consider aid effectiveness principlesand to ensure that objective priority settingmethods address the needs of developmentpartners. A challenge for donors will be toensure that analytical priority setting processescomplement the priority setting processes oflocal, national, regional and global researchpartners―i.e. GCARD, CAADP, CGIAR, SROsetc.Given the feedback through donor interviews,the following distillation of the completereport may provide insights on ways to moreeffectively use systematic approaches to pri-ority setting for agricultural research andnonresearch investments.
THE HOW-TO OF INVESTMENT PRIORITYSETTING
Most donors employ informal, semi-structuredprocesses to set agricultural research priori-ties―and lack capacity, resources or time toconduct formal, technical priority setting exer-cises. However, it is possible to improve the pri-ority setting process and facilitate greater coor-dination and cooperation among donors.To that end, the authors recommend that donorsSystematise the prioritisation processMake use of accepted theory and availableinformationUse quantitative tools where practical andcredible
// Systematisetheprioritisationprocess
A five-step sequence of practices can be usefulfor setting priorities for most donors1. Identify goals2.Specify potential alternatives (topics or institu-tions) to be prioritised3.Project contributions of research topics(institutions) to the goals4.Consider tradeoffs associated with alternativepriorities5.Compare priorities to the current portfolio oftopics or institutional investments and vet anychanges against political acceptabilityProjecting contributions of research to specificgoals can be accomplished by applying a subsetof impact assessment tools, can make use of theresults from meta-analyses of previous researchon the topics, or can make use of indicators ortheory. A formal prioritisation process is notcompleted each year but should be undertakenwhen a new strategic plan is developed or atleast every five years. Adjustments to prioritiescan be made more frequently, and targetedimpact assessments can be undertaken toinform those changes.To effectively prioritise research investments, itis critical to understand potential impacts fordifferent research investments by using variousmethods for research impact assessment(table 1).
Platform Policy Brief I No. 8
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donorplatform.org
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RECOMMENDATIONS
Global Donor Platformfor Rural Development
Tackling rural poverty,together
 
// Make use of accepted theory andavailableinformation
Even without quantitative tools, donor prioritysetting processes could make additional use ofavailable information and theory. Income andproductivity effects of research are driven to alarge extent by base value of production associ-ated with a commodity, the expected per unitcost and yield changes if the research issucessful, the likelihood of research success,projected adoption rate of the results and theirtiming.Poverty is highly geographic and, for producers,affected by the value of the products producedand by the risk. Urban poor are affected signifi-cantly by the price of the food products theyconsume most. Poor women especially areaffected by low food prices. Improvement in onegoal can mean sacrifice in another, and thetradeoff can be quantified if quantitative toolsare used when evaluating impacts―or at leastdiscussed if only qualitative methods are used.
// Usequantitativetoolswherepracticalandcredible
For the goal of improving agricultural produc-tivity, income growth, and food security,economic surplus and benefit cost analysesare time-tested methods that can be combinedwith other methods to provide donors withprojected benefits and tradeoffs. Application ofthese tools can be externally contracted duringpriority setting exercises. For impact assess-ment in other areas―such as nutrition, health,poverty reduction, or environmental goals―other factors can be used to quantify researchbenefits. Examples of key determinants ofresearch contributing to achieving donor goalsare elaborated in table 2.The synthesis paper that this brief refers tobuilds on this information through a compari-son of models available to donors and providesan example of how to use one model, thetradeoffs model, that is both rigorous and easyto use.
Platform Policy Brief I No. 8
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donorplatform.org
Table 1. Methods for assessing impacts of agricultural research
MethodMeta-analysisCongruence analysisBenefit-cost and EconomicSurplus AnalysisNonmarket valuationmethodsDisability-adjusted life yearsPoverty rate analysisRandomised Control TrialsEconometric impact modelsSimulation/mathprogrammingChanges in indicatorsScoring indicesGoals most easilyaddr
 
essedAll goalsProductivity, income,food securityProductivity, income,food securityEnvironmentalHealth and nutritionDistributionalProductivityhealth, environmentalProductivityIncome, environmen-tal, distributionalAll goalsAll goalsEase of use forresearch impactassessmentMedium-highHighMediumMedium-lowMediumMedium-lowLowMedium-lowMedium-lowHighHighReliability ofpr
 
edicted impactsMedium-lowMedium-lowMediumMedium-lowMedium-lowMediumHighMediumMedium-lowLowLow
Global Donor Platformfor Rural Development
Tackling rural poverty,together

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