Policy makers recognize that increased investment in agricultural research is key to increasing agricultural productivity. Despite this, many low- and middle-income countries struggle with capacity and funding constraints in their agricultural research systems. Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), within the portfolio of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets works with national, regional, and international partners to collect time series data on the funding, human resource capacity, and outputs of agricultural research in low- and middle-income countries. Based on this information, ASTI produces analysis, capacity-building tools, and outreach products to help facilitate policies for effective and efficient agricultural research.
“Agricultural research” includes government, higher education, and nonprofit agencies, but excludes the private for-profit sector. Total agricultural research spending includes salaries, operating and program costs, and capital investments for all agencies (excluding the private for-profit sector) involved in agricultural research in a country. Expenditures are adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2011 prices. Purchasing power parities (PPPs) measure the relative purchasing power of currencies across countries by eliminating national differences in pricing levels for a wide range of goods. PPPs are relatively stable over time, whereas exchange rates fluctuate considerably. In addition to looking at absolute levels of agricultural research investment and capacity, another way of comparing commitment to agricultural research is to measure research intensity—that is, total agricultural research spending as a percentage of agricultural output (AgGDP).
“Total agricultural researchers” includes all research agencies (excluding the private for-profit sector) in a country. Totals are reported in full-time equivalents (FTEs) to account for the proportion of time researchers actually spend on research activities. A critical mass of qualified agricultural researchers is crucial for implementing a viable research agenda, for effectively communicating with stakeholders, and in securing external funding. Therefore, it is important to look at the share of PhD-qualified researchers. Gender balance in agricultural research is important, given that women researchers offer different insights and perspectives that can help research agencies more effectively address the unique and pressing challenges of female farmers. Age imbalances among research staff should be minimized. Having too many PhD-qualified researchers approaching retirement age can jeopardize the continuity of future research.
Research involves unavoidable time lags from the point when investments are made until tangible benefits are attained; in the interim, long-term,
stable funding is required. The volatility coefficient measures the volatility of agricultural research spending by applying the standard deviation formula to average one-year logarithmic growth of agricultural research spending over a certain period. A value of 0 indicates “no volatility”; countries with values between 0 and 0.1 are classified as having “low volatility”; countries with values between 0.1 and 0.2 are considered to have “moderate volatility”; and countries with values above 0.2 fall into the “high volatility” category.