There is an increasing need to show evidence of the beneficial outcomes of national public investments in agricultural research (Donovan 2011, Penfield et al. 2014). To date, impact evaluations predominantly focus on intended results of planned, clearly demarcated interventions, i.e., projects for accountability purposes (Kelley et al. 2008, Regeer et al. 2018) notwithstanding the longstanding critique regarding their limited value for understanding problems, learning to create potential solutions collectively and system change (e.g. Horton and MacKay 2003). To have an impact on complex problems research institutes need to acknowledge the multitude of influential factors causing an inherent unpredictability of the change process and an attribution problem in the practice of evaluation (Arkesteijn et al. 2015). Tackling current complex challenges like food security, climate change or biodiversity loss means aligning daily research projects with overarching missions (Renkow & Byerlee 2010) as well as applying appropriate evaluation methodologies. There is a gap between the call to account for impact and the reality of the limited (known) contribution of evaluations on impact due to a variety of reasons: limited capacity, neglect of evaluation outcomes, institutional barriers hindering the translation from evaluation objectives to conducting evaluations, and trade-offs related to the institutes’ missions. In this research, evaluation is regarded as a way to increase the chance to realise impact in dealing with complex problems in the food system in a responsible manner (Turner et al., 2021). Moreover, since evaluation capacity is just one factor among many explaining the outcomes in terms of impact, the research is also oriented to evaluation capability and evaluation performance documented and reflected upon. While operating in a more isolated way and with missions of competitiveness and innovation rather than development, national research institutes could learn from the CG-institutes.
|Effective start/end date
|1/03/23 → …
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