Product Line 5.4. Strategic foresight, priority setting, and impact assessment for rice research 

Rationale 

        Systematic empirical analysis (priority assessment) is needed to help guide limited resources to those research areas that have the greatest potential to produce benefits in line with CGIAR goals such as productivity enhancement, poverty reduction, and environmental improvement. Dedicated work is needed to help tease out implicit assumptions about the intended use of research products, and to translate forecasted use into comparable metrics that represent contributions to different goals and objectives of a research organization. Priority assessment can also be an important “learning” tool, as the assumptions elicited regarding the future use of research products can be tested against the results of past evaluations and experience, so as to enlighten and educate scientists. 
        Ex post impact assessment is thus essential for following up on these projections, improving future assumptions, and demonstrating to donors and other audiences how benefits to the poor and the environment are being generated.

Activities

To conduct priority setting, participatory, structured, and quantitative approaches will be employed to obtain estimates of economic, poverty, health, and environmental benefits per dollar of investment in potential research areas. Components of this analysis include the assessment of projected yield gaps under future climatic conditions, mapping of rice agroecologies, and disaggregation of yield gaps into efficiency gaps, abiotic yield limitations, and biotic yield reductions for particular agroecologies and countries. This is complemented by assessments of quality gaps, analysis of potential improvements in yield potential, and the identification of losses due to inappropriate policies. Estimates generated will be used with data from product 5.3.2 to assess on-farm economic and social effects of technological solutions, which will be used in PL 5.3’s global rice trade model to assess dynamic price and land-use consequences, which will then underpin estimates of poverty impacts. Parameters underpinning the assessment will be regularly reviewed and updated by a task force of leading GRiSP scientists, which will oversee a revision to the priority-setting study every five years. In addition, regular interaction with CRP 2’s strategic foresight function will be maintained so as to build linkages with priority setting at the CGIAR system level.
        Ex post impact assessment will be employed when research products are near their peak level of adoption, whereas more immediate feedback to scientists will be provided through evaluation approaches focused on early adoption (PL 5.1). The emphasis of ex post studies will be to go further “down the impact pathway” than has been the case in prior studies so as to assess how research-induced changes in production practices have led to changes in CGIAR mission-level goals related to poverty, food security, and environmental protection. Where feasible and appropriate, assessment will be differentiated by gender.
Natural resource management technologies for rice have far less documented impact to date than do improved varieties, yet it remains unclear whether this is due to achievement or measurement difficulties. To help resolve this quandary, a series of impact assessments is planned for management innovations with rapidly rising adoption—optimized crop management in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, water-saving technologies in Asia, site-specific nutrient management in Southeast Asia, and reduced tillage in South Asia. To enable more accurate future adoption estimates at lower cost, remote-sensing methods will be tested for tracking the diffusion of varietal and crop management practices.

    To ensure that assessment of long-term impact and priority setting is adequately funded, a 1.5% impact assessment levy will be applied to restricted grant proposals under the GRiSP, where possible, rather than specific impact assessment milestones.

Products

    5.4.1 Foresight and intelligence for strategic assessment of research priorities
    5.4.2 Ex post assessment of aggregate technology adoption trends and associated economic, poverty, and environmental impacts

Partnerships

Ex ante and ex post impact assessment are a multidisciplinary undertaking, requiring a wide range of expertise and perspectives drawn internally from international GRiSP lead institutes, as well as other CGIAR centers, agricultural universities, and public- and private-sector research organizations.  Partnerships are both direct for the conduct of household surveys, data collection, and analysis, and indirect through linkages with activities such as other GRiSP product lines and the contributions of partners there involved (such as climate change analysis, epidemiological forecasting, crop growth modeling, spatial analysis, and trade modeling). Key other partner CGIAR centers include CRP 2, IFPRI, CIMMYT, ILRI, Bioversity, and WorldFish, as well as the CGIAR Science Council Standing Panel on Impact Assessment. Additional advanced research institute partners will be engaged as appropriate to lend independence and objectivity to particular ex post studies.

Uptake and impact pathway

The short-term outcome is the use of results by the GRiSP, NARES, and donors to focus investments on research areas with the greatest potential to benefit the poor and the environment. The long-term intended outcome is increased benefits for the poor and the environment from more targeted and better funded rice research. This assumes the willingness of CGIAR managers, scientists, and donors to respond to evidence of achieved impacts and impact potential. This product line will provide feedback to all other themes in GRiSP and is linked to CGIAR TA2 (Policy).

Financing strategy

Approximately $500,000 of additional annual investment is needed, starting in 2011. A substantial amount of this funding will be provided from the M&E/strategic impact assessment/priority-setting budget line item in the global program coordination and support budget of GRiSP.