Justin Kernoghan / TROCAIRE

What Does the ISPC Really Do?

Welcome to the new ISPC website and to our new blog! We hope to use both to strengthen communications between ISPC and the rest of the CGIAR, and also to engage with others outside the System.  

In the little more than a year that I’ve been Executive Director of the ISPC, I’ve come to realize that few people—even those within the CGIAR system—are familiar with what the ISPC does beyond reviewing the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) proposals. I’d like to address that knowledge gap here.

The mandate of the ISPC has evolved over time. It has been and continues to be affected by the CGIAR reform process.  Although some aspects of our mandate may change, it is quite clear that our main role is to serve as an independent advisor to the System Council on science and research matters, including strategies for effective partnerships along the research for development continuum.  

To do this most effectively, in 2017 we organized our activities into five work streams, each led by an ISPC Council member and coordinated by an ISPC Secretariat staff member.  We came up with these work streams after developing a theory of change based on our draft terms of reference and on several recent documents examining the role of the ISPC.   

The logic of the work streams is best illustrated by articulating the main question they seek to answer, together with a short explanation of what each is doing to respond.  

1. Are the research proposals put forward by CGIAR Research Programs of sufficient quality to merit inclusion in the System’s portfolio?  

To answer this question, the Program Review work stream mobilizes reviews from independent experts as well as ISPC Council and Secretariat staff. These reviews are then moderated by the Council as a whole, to provide ex ante analyses of the overall quality (relevance, scientific credibility, legitimacy and effectiveness) of the proposed research. 

2. What should the CGIAR prioritize within the portfolio?

The Foresight and Prioritization work stream takes up this question by analyzing issues that affect the comparative advantage of the System, as well as drivers and trends affecting global food systems and how cutting-edge and emerging developments in technologies and methodologies affect CGIAR work. 

3. How effective has CGIAR research been and how can its impact be better articulated?  

The Impact Assessment work stream—supported by the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA)—is tasked not only with answering this question but also with developing capacity across the System to enable high qualityand more coordinated impact assessment.  Activities include state-of-the-art impact assessments of major CGIAR efforts, as well as methodological innovations and capacity strengthening in the CGIAR system. 

4. What are the systemic factors that can help CGIAR enhance the uptake and impact of its research?

The Agri-Food System Innovation and Partnership work stream seeks to address this question by analyzing effective partnership strategies and advancing the understanding of the key factors that drive agricultural innovation systems through conceptual framing supported by case study analysis. 

5. How can we ensure that CGIAR science learns from, and contributes to, the global science community in the areas we work in?  

Within the Science Dialogue work stream, the biannual Science Forum is the most visible activity. Its goal is to bring together CGIAR and external scientists on topics of strategic interest to the system, generate intensive discussions, and lead follow-up activities. The ISPC is also facilitating System-wide agreement on the nature and assessment of QoR for development (QoR4D), and a working group on QoR4D was established in 2016 under ISPC chairmanship.

I hope this blog helps bring a better understanding of the ISPC work – and it opens more opportunities for you to use --and give feedback on it.   More information can be obtained from our new website.  And be on the look-out for our next blog coming soon!