GCQRI Day Two – Focused Discussion Sessions

Today is going to be a difficult day to write up as it isn’t presentation led, as yesterday was. Today was more about kicking ideas around and starting to flesh out some aspects of the structure.

The first part of today has the group split up into three different sessions that run at the same time. We attended two different sessions in total. The discussions covered “Structure & Governance”, “Finance & Funding” and “Determining Research Priorities”.

Determining Research Priorities:

This was the first session, but it wasn’t about suggesting specific projects. It was about discussing the process of selection. This is a mixture of things – there are the bodies that have to collect and assess potential projects before putting them out to tender, and that structure needed to be discussed. Secondly there need to be explicit criteria that projects must meet. This is probably easier to explain (for someone, like me, unfamiliar with research institutions) – as a lot of it is common sense. Priorities include breadth of application, as well as likelihood of application. I’d also like to see an explicit “Do no evil” policy – where a project would be rejected if its outcome would have a negative effect on either short or long term prices paid to consumers. a At this stage we’re still discussing things – nothing has been decided.

Structure & Governance:

If I don’t explain this well, then I am sorry! If I can post the diagram for this then I will. At the top of the project sits a Board of Directors. This is the ultimate decision making entity. It would be made up of a mixture of people from the industry as well as the management entity and those in research. The Board chooses the direction, chooses which projects are researched. The size and exact make up of the board is still being discussed.

Underneath the board sits the management entity – in this case the Borlaug institute has been proposed – which is in charge of liaising with and collecting incoming data from the research projects. There is also a Technical Advising Group (TAG) made up of scientists who are not doing the research but are supporting those doing it. You’d also have an External Evaluation Panel (EEP). Essentially this is an auditing group that report directly to the Board and should have no jested interests in any of the projects.

From the previous group it was raised that we’d need an additional entity to deal with the screening and selection. In theory the TAG could do this, but it would perhaps create some vested interests in projects which isn’t a good thing.

The model is based on other Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSPs – amusingly pronounced “crisps”) that are common in other agricultural commodities.

There are many people in this room with a lot more experience than me. Part of me innately fears bureaucracy, and worries about the creation of committees and sub-committees as I don’t want to see this project stagnate and become unnecessary complex. However these things are often created for a reason and we are looking to a successful and functioning structure. Another challenge is going to be filling the positions. The board is all voluntary, and even other roles (such as finding people for the EEP) will be difficult to fill.

I don’t know much about what happened in the other session on Finance, but if I can find something out then I will post it.

  1. An example of this would be a post processing technology that would improve low quality coffees – meaning the industry could buy cheaper raw materials and maintain quality  (back)

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