RE: How to evaluate science, technology and innovation in a development context? | Eval Forward

Dear All,

These are indeed interesting questions and exciting debate.

Thinking about QoS and innovation evaluation, in the specific context of the CGIAR, while I agree with most of what has already been said, I could not resist -out of curiosity- the temptation to visit Web of Science, to check bibliometric and citation indices of some of the great R&D pioneers, such as Norman Borlaug or MS Swaminathan.

These heroes of so-called green revolution have built the reputation of the CGIAR and delivered impact at scale on global food security etc. But surprisingly they did not really publish much. For instance, Borlaug just has an H-Index of 13 and 54 total Publications (Web-of-Science checked today); MSS has an HI of 15. What would be probably the scores of an average postdoctoral fellow nowadays!  So, what does this tell us after all?

A lot has already been said about impact and tradeoffs of the GR, but as we browse through the old files of the pioneer scientists that have made IRRI, CIMMYT, etc. in the old days, we sense a great commitment and dedication to science for the benefit poor. The noble mission that incentivized brilliant scientists, mostly from the northern hemisphere, to trade their comfortable labs for dusty fields across Asia, Africa and LAM. We can also assume that most of these ‘activist volunteers’ were not really chasing citations or easy recognition, but they had very clear ideas of what must be done and why..

Sixty years after its inception, the CGIAR must find a way to revisit its history and look for inspiration on how to renew its mission and commitments to relevant and impactful science, beyond convoluted measurements and “bean counting”... All parameters of the QoR4D frame of reference are indeed important, and bibliometric parameters are also part of the QoS equation. But what is even more crucial is the scientific culture and ethical values that attract, maintain, and inspire new generations of brilliant international scientists to join the system. The CGIAR scientist need to be put in the center of research impact pathways, the profile should be revalued. On the other hand, ‘system bureaucracies’ should be kept at minimum, as support services to assist scientists in their mission. There is something to be done on the L of the MEL, going back to the basics.

Apologies for being blunt and probably ‘off-track’ but having worked for many years as a scientist at 3 CGIAR centers, successively ICRISAT, IRRI, and ICARDA and then at the science council secretariat (ISPC), this is somehow inspired by my modest experience and devotion for the CG.