Impact assessment of policy-oriented research in the CGIAR: evidence and insights from case studies

Policy-oriented Research (POR) is research that aims to influence the decisions made by governments or other institutions that are embodied in laws, regulations, or activities that affect people’s lives and livelihoods. POR has recently accounted for an increasing share of research expenditures in the CGIAR, rising from 9 percent in 1995 to about 18 percent currently. Yet it is a theme where evidence of impacts is scant.

The Science Council’s study of POR was conducted at the request of several members of the CGIAR. This is a collection of seven case studies, selected from a competitive call of 14 submissions. Five of the seven case studies were able to measure the economic impacts of the policy changes associates with the POR and the returns on the POR investments themselves, although none was able to translate these impacts into quantified effects of poverty reduction or food security. In this respect, these impact assessments are not so different from most others undertaken in the CGIAR.

Adding together the estimates economic impacts of POR from the five relevant case studies gives us a cumulative NPV of about US$ 750 million. If we add this amount to the US$200 million in benefits estimated for three cases cited in the scoping study report, we arrive at a current estimate of US$950 million as NPV of documented benefits from POR in the CGIAR system. These benefits stand in comparison with US$800 million of cumulative investment in POR in the CGIAR up to 2004, a figure which has probably surpassed US$900 million in 2008. However, if donors are to be convinced that the CGIAR’s increasing emphasis on POR over the past 20 years is justified, further PORIA studies are needed to provide a more comprehensive estimate of the benefits of POR across the entire CGIAR system.