The organization of agricultural research in western developed countries

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Agricultural Economics





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This paper reviews agricultural research structural and organizational changes in western developed countries, examines new financing prospects for agricultural research, and provides some tentative conclusions about which organizations are best positioned to provide services for the twenty-first century. Given that these countries face many similar economic, political, scientific, and agroclimatic factors and fiscal issues, we can expect a set of similar new developments that have potentially important and widespread long-run implications. After three common developments are outlined, principles of impure public good financing are applied leading to the following agricultural science policy recommendations: (i) new political jurisdictions should be formed to finance research, e.g. new alliances across countries and subregions within large countries; (ii) intellectual property rights should be strengthened to increase the total amount and share of total (public and private) agricultural research that is privately financed and conducted, i.e. the private sector should find it profitable to undertake a large share of applied research but not be expected to finance public-sector agricultural research; and (iii) the public sector should redirect its research efforts increasingly to areas that are socially worthwhile, but not privately undertaken, e.g. in the basic and pretechnology areas, on environmental, resources, food safety and human nutrition, and policy. Finally, large countries that have developed a system of shared public and private financing and performance and decentralized public support of agricultural research seem best positioned for meeting the needs of the twenty-first century.


This is a staff paper of an article from Agricultural Economics 21 (1999): 1, doi: 10.1016/S0169-5150(99)00014-6.