|Mobilizing science for global food security. Third External Review of IFPRI (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research ) (1998)|
This report summarizes the EPMR Panels major findings and recommendations on IFPRIs overall performance during the review period 1992-97. It includes an assessment of the Centres research and outreach activities, its governance and management, and a discussion of the cross cutting issues and themes that emerge therefrom. The Panel has offered a number of suggestions on the different aspects of the Centres operations in the different chapters in addition to the major recommendations given below.
This is the first comprehensive external review of IFPRI that has taken place since the second EPMR of 1990 which coincided with an extremely difficult period in the Centres history. By 1992, IFPRI had turned around and many positive changes had taken place. The Panel is pleased to note that during 1992-97, the Centre had built further on this foundation and made steady and impressive progress in its research as well as overall governance and management. IFPRI is now a well-managed institute and continues to be a producer of high quality research output.
IFPRI has four research divisions and an outreach division. An assessment of the work of the research divisions shows that their outputs, both in terms of empirical findings and methodological contributions are relevant to developing countries, other partners and the research community at large. Some divisions have built up large collections of data sets that can be used for inter country and intertemporal comparisons. The volume of final research outputs has varied across divisions, but is significant and has been judged to be of high quality by the ICER as well as by other professional peers. There are priority areas such as water on which the Centre has not able to do significant research mainly due to lack of funding.
IFPRIs Vision 2020 and its outputs have not only given its work a high degree of visibility, but also contributed significantly to heightened awareness, worldwide, of global food policy and environmental issues. The dissemination of these outputs has resulted in several requests for IFPRIs advice and assistance from developing countries. The 2020 study has also helped integrate and highlight the different strands of research at IFPRI.
The outreach division is still in a state of flux, being relatively new in its present form. The expansion of the scope and thrust of outreach is moving in the right direction, but several gaps remain in terms of integrating research and outreach, ownership of the activities, and clarification of the organizational mechanisms for effective implementation.
Cross Cutting themes and Issues
The Panel is satisfied that the Centres priority setting process and the research agenda it has adopted are on the whole appropriate and timely, given its own comparative advantage, the outputs available from other policy research bodies, and the uncertainty about donor resources IFPRIs resource allocation across major activities is generally in line with CG goals and priorities. The original rationale for establishing IFPRI as a policy research centre within the CG System continues to be valid today.
IFPRIs work is of good quality at all stages of its research process. The selection of research problems is in general carefully done and the quality standards applied are appropriate. The internal quality control system is efficient and working well. Its outputs such as policy briefs, project briefs and other information materials are widely disseminated and are of high quality. The staffs achievements in respect of peer reviewed publications is impressive, but their co-authors work and audiences are largely in the developed countries.
A quantitative assessment of the impacts of policy research on goals such as poverty alleviation is difficult in the present state of our knowledge. It is necessary therefore to depend on intermediate indicators of IFPRIs impact. The Centres efforts to select and work on relevant policy issues of concern to developing countries, its wide dissemination of outputs, especially in a more accessible form to policy makers, its collaborative research partnerships in countries, and capacity building efforts all qualify as adequate intermediate indicators. The Centre is actively engaged in the task of policy research impact assessment.
IFPRIs management has effectively combined the use of incentives, peer pressure and negotiations to direct individual researchers away from the exclusive pursuit of academic excellence towards other institutional goals. But more work needs to be done to nudge them towards outreach and the production of joint research publications with developing country collaborators. The skill mix of the Centre needs to be balanced by inducting persons with significant policy experience in developing countries and from other relevant disciplines than economics.
IFPRIs linkages with other CG Centres are good. Its linkages with other advanced research institutions are also excellent. It has a good network of collaborating institutions in developing countries, but further strengthening of these links is in order. Steps are under way to move in this direction. The Centre is an active partner in seven Systemwide programmes.
In summary, the overall outputs and performance of IFPRI during the period under review have been impressive. It has achieved a good balance between quality and relevance of research, increased its impact through wide dissemination of its outputs and other outreach activities, and expanded its financial and human resources significantly. The gender balance at the senior research staff level has improved. The leadership of the Centre has done an outstanding job of restoring organizational cohesion, morale and stability after a period of internal turmoil and uncertainty. Its governance structure and processes are functioning effectively.
The Panel endorses the conclusion of the Stripe Study that policy research is important for the overall effectiveness of the CG System and that IFPRI should continue to play a lead role in this area. The Panels major recommendations are summarized below.
With respect to IFPRI s research work, the Panel recommends that:
a) notwithstanding the present difficulties in obtaining funding for work on water resources, IFPRI should redouble its efforts in raising such funds since it is an area identified as a priority by the CGIAR (Section 2.1); and,
b) in designing its research every division within IFPRI should bear in mind that developing countries now have increasingly open economies, and that the planned research should take into full account the country s interactions with the rest of the world. (Section 2.3)
In redesigning its outreach activities, IFPRI should ensure that:
a) the respective roles of the research divisions and the outreach division in outreach activities are clarified and that the outreach function is well integrated with research;
b) there is mutual reinforcement of research and outreach, with research driving outreach on the dissemination of research findings and outreach influencing research on the identification of research problems;
c) if a country programme format is used, it recognizes the need for integration of research and outreach, provides an efficient mechanism for management, and is reasonably consistent across countries in which IFPRI operates (Section 2.5)
With respect to impact assessment, IFPRI should:
a) continue to assess the impact of its activities mainly in terms of the outputs for which it can be held accountable (intermediate impacts of its publications and capacity strengthening efforts, for example);
b) continue its activities related to developing improved understanding of, and means for assessing, impacts of policy and social science research; and
c) develop further in-depth case studies of its impacts in partner countries, and also surveys of the use of its outputs in other, non-partner countries, (Section 3.3.5)
With respect to enhancing the relevance of its activities, IFPRI should:
a) further strengthen its mechanisms for priority setting by seeking new ways to identify and take account of developing country policy concerns;
b) diversify its skill mix by recruiting persons with both research and policy experience, with greater flexibility in appointments, if necessary.
The Panel further recommends that:
the IFPRI Board should play a more active role in ensuring and monitoring the relevance and impact of the Institutes work. (Section 5.2)