Research Partnerships: Who Pays
and Who Benefits?
Agricultural research is a melting pot of various agencies and disciplines from numerous countries. Through inter–agency and interdisciplinary research, complex issues in agricultural development are solved both at the technical and institutional levels. Nevertheless, a closer look at the costs and benefits, and at various forms of partnership among disciplines, agencies, and countries should separate dreams from results and give lessons for the future.
Time is one of the major costs of research partnerships. It takes years to produce research products that will make a difference in sustainable development. How many donors and how many scientists can make that kind of commitment? What incentive structure works in terms of research career, publications, material rewards, science recognition, and impact on the state of the natural resources and on people’s lives?
To do single discipline research in one institute in one country is difficult enough. Costs of research partnerships, called transaction costs, can be considerable. Obtaining project approval, negotiating institutional arrangements, obtaining funding releases from donor agencies, and seeking government clearancesespecially when more than one country is involved– can be horrendous. Research implementation can be held up due to such delays, euphemistically called “gestation period.” But equally important is the negotiation of roles and responsibilities, as well as the exchange of information needed to maintain the vitality and effectiveness of partnerships.