|Mobilizing science for global food security. Third External Review of IFPRI (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research ) (1998)|
|Chapter 2 - IFPRI Research and Outreach Activities|
|2.2 Food Consumption and Nutrition Division (FCND)|
To carry out consumption studies, the Division uses a combination of two methodologies: cross-sectional multivariate methods familiar to economists and useful to indicate links between variables; and randomized sampling techniques that now take into account power calculations to compare groups over time or with and without interventions, to determine the impact of the intervention studied. They include both questionnaires and food and physiological measurements. Techniques from a variety of disciplines are necessary, and FCND does possess the greatest mix of disciplines within IFPRI, although the number of non-economists is still limited.
A respected interdisciplinary team reviewed the validity of methods in the ICER report, and found very few serious questions about the use of methodology in general, especially within the discipline of economics. The team suggested several improvements within the specific MPs; many of these have been implemented by the Division. The reviewers praised the creative approach to developing methods exhibited in some MPs and suggested some improvements of nutrition and other methodologies.
Although IFPRI studies have become more focused on individuals within households and therefore deal more closely with behavioural issues as well as with the effects of consumption on nutrition, there are surprisingly few non-economists within the organization (see Chapter 3.4.1). Several of the non-economists are on the staff of the FCND. There is recognition within IFPRI that these individuals bring a different perspective to the Institutes studies, especially in relation to improved survey design and interpretation; inadequate design has at times led to concerns regarding conclusions about the impact of policies or programmes on nutrition. It is claimed that economists understand well basic nutritional concepts, but that they are less familiar with the research designs required to determine statistical differences between groups, as well as the distinctions between evaluations of impact and process (i.e., other indicators of intermediary outcomes). The non-economists skills in these areas have been especially appreciated within IFPRI.
Maintaining this non-economist expertise within FCND has been problematic in the past, the lack of critical mass leading to feelings of isolation and disaffection among them (see Section 3.4.2). The head of FCND is consciously attempting to attain a better balance of disciplines through additional appointments, long-term Visiting Researchers and Rockefeller Fellows. For example, IFPRI and the UN Sub Committee on Nutrition (SCN) and have agreed to maintain a joint position for a nutritionist to work on the SCN 4th World Food Situation document for 1999, which will benefit IFPRI through increased nutrition inputs and working links with the international nutrition network. Other means of interdisciplinary cross-fertilization are through academic collaborators on specific projects, including sociologists, medical anthropologists, nutritionists and legal specialists.