DECEMBER 14, 2013
⇐RETURN TO AGENDA
About the Authors:
Roger Slade has over 40 years experience in development as an economist, researcher, evaluator, and manager, including periods of residence in southern and western Africa and Southeast Asia. He is a former trustee and Director of Africa Now, past treasurer of the International Development Evaluation Association, and a long-time advisor to Farm Africa. For 25 years, he held progressively senior appointments in the World Bank. Since retiring from the Bank in 1999, he has worked as a consultant economist, most recently leading a global study of FAO’s role in fostering investment in agriculture.
Mitch Renkow has been a Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University since 1991. Prior to that time, he worked at ICRISAT and at CIMMYT. His research focuses on issues of technology adoption, determinants of market participation, and the aggregate and distributional impacts of agricultural research. He has worked at or for three CGIAR institutions (CIMMYT, ICRISAT, and IFPRI). His work on the impact of agricultural research includes a study of the impacts of CGIAR research since 2000 (as part of the 2010 External Review of the CGIAR); assessments of policy-oriented research on less-favored areas and on pro-poor public investment; work for SPIA on the environmental impacts of CGIAR research; and most recently, an assessment of IFPRI’s cumulative research in Ethiopia since 1995.
Independence or Influence: Tradeoffs in
Development Policy Research
Policy research seeks to be relevant to the policy milieu where it is to be used. Increased relevance is often sought by collaborating closely with a target audience—typically, a government or its agents. A review of the relevant literature shows that the pay-offs to different forms of collaboration is under-researched and the inherent risks of close collaboration, especially the explicit or implicit trade-offs between independence in choosing and analyzing research questions on the one hand, and the likelihood of influencing policy adoption and implementation on the other are largely disregarded. These trade-offs often reflect the extent to which policy research agendas are captured by host governments or special interests. They are also influenced by the openness of the policy environment.
These problems are explored and illustrated in an examination of IFPRI’s experience conducting policy research in Ethiopia between 1995 and 2010. From 1995 to 2004, nearly all of IFPRI’s Ethiopia work was undertaken by Washington-based research teams working on specific themes under various “global research programs.” This changed in 2004 with the establishment of IFPRI’s Ethiopia Strategy Support Program (ESSP). The ESSP was set up to provide direct support to the Government of Ethiopia in the design and implementation of its national agricultural development strategy.
We compare both the design and influence of IFPRI’s research activities under these two distinct approaches to policy research. We find that the establishment of the ESSP rendered IFPRI much more of an “insider” in Ethiopia’s policy-making process than had previously been the case. This had profound effects on the composition and influence of IFPRI’s research. We argue that the ESSP enhanced the relevance of IFPRI’s work—particularly its contribution to institutional change in Ethiopia—but at the cost of partial capture by a government whose prevailing ideological position is inimical to the use of free markets as a means of allocating resources, particularly in agriculture and rural development.
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