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Determining international agricultural research priorities


ACIAR was established in 1982 as a statutory authority within the Commonwealth Government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. ACIAR's mission is to reduce poverty, improve food security and promote sustainable natural resource management through international agricultural research
partnerships for the benefit of developing countries and Australia (ACIAR 1997). From its inception, ACIAR was interested in setting priorities for international agricultural research. These priorities can be summarised in the form of a priority table for each country or region. For each country or region, the priority table is a listing of agricultural commodities grouped into six priority categories. This table is used to screen projects to ensure that funds are targeted first
towards commodities in high-priority categories. The priority tables are not prescriptive. However, when funds are directed to the commodities in the high priority categories, this is likely to result in more research benefits than if funds are spent on lower priority commodities. This form of 'big picture' or aggregate priority setting is necessary for an agency such as ACIAR which funds research covering a wide range of agricultural commodities in many countries hroughout Asia, the South Pacific and Africa. ACIAR has an annual budget of about A$44 million. This monograph contains results from recent analyses of research priorities for a range of countries and commodities of interest to National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in developing countries and to agencies involved in international agricultural research. The analyses are ex-ante, and are for planning the allocation of research resources. By definition, ex-ante analyses estimate future research benefits to be realised if, and only if, the research is undertaken and the target users adopt the research results. Ex-ante analyses establish the magnitude of benefits likely to accrue from research before the research is undertaken. This type of analysis takes into account technological, social and economic constraints pertaining to the problem addressed by research. In previous analyses (e.g. Davis et al. 1987), the ex-ante benefits from research were routinely modified by subjective estimates (built into the model RE4 model) of: * the capacity to undertake strategic research; * the capacity to undertake applied research; and * the capacity to facilitate the adoption of research. The capacity to undertake strategic and/or applied research provided an indication of the probability of success of a research project. The capacity to facilitate the adoption of research was based on a country-level qualitative, subjective assessment of the quality of the extension and support systems. For each country, these estimates were different for different commodities. Experience has shown that the use of these in-built modifiers to scale down the estimated ex-ante benefits reduces the transparency of the estimation process and therefore its credibility.