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Inside ICRISAT's Seed Banks & Test Fields, Research Is Changing Farmers' Lives

Rachel Kyte's picture

Deep inside the ICRISAT campus just outside Hyderabad, there are two sub-zero rooms that house the seeds of 120,000 plants from over 100 countries and 120,000 chances to change poor farmers' lives. The rows of plastic containers and freeze-dried metallic packages resemble a huge and very cold medicine cabinet.

These seed banks, or genebanks, hold the keys to growing more productive, hardier, healthier food crops that could help feed the 9 billion people who will be living on Earth by 2050. Scientists use the collection to map characteristics that enable individual plants to withstand water shortages, pests, and disease, or increase yields and nutrient levels. Over 800 improved crop varieties have been developed from this seed bank and now grow in 79 countries.

ICRISAT is the international crop research institute for the semi-arid tropics and one of 15 CGIAR research centers. Scientist here work on sorghum, millet, chickpeas, pigeon peas, and ground nuts - the food crops that smallholder farmers from the driest parts of the world depend on for their survival.

A walk through the campus reveals the power and potential of international research.

Can Theories of Change Help Researchers (or their funders) Have More Impact?

Duncan Green's picture

Got dragged into DFID this week for yet another session on theories of change. This one was organized by the DFID-funded Research for Development (R4D) project (sorry, ‘portal’). A lot of my previous comments on such sessions apply – in DFID the theories of change agenda seems rather dominated by evaluation and planning (‘logframes on steroids’), whereas in Oxfam, it is mainly used to sharpen our work in programmes and campaigns. But the conversation that jumped out at me was around ‘how do we influence the researchers that we fund to use theories of change (ToCs) to improve the impact of their research?’

It’s risky to generalize about ‘academics’, but I'm going to do it anyway. Let’s apply some ToCs thinking to academia as a target. Applying ToCs to try and understand why academics don't use ToCs may feel a bit weird (like the bit in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich enters his own brain), but bear with me.

DFID's Approach to Impact Evaluation - Part II

Markus Goldstein's picture

As part of a new series looking how institutions are approaching impact evaluation, DI virtually sat down with Nick York, Head of Evaluation and Gail Marzetti, Deputy Head, Research and Evidence Division.   For Part I of this series, see yesterday’s post. Today we focus on DFID’s funding for research and impact evaluation.  

A Sea Change for World Bank Publishing

Carlos Rossel's picture

On April 10th the World Bank announced that it is adopting an open access (OA) policy that requires that all research and knowledge products written by staff, and the associated datasets that underpin the research, be deposited in an open access repository and that these works be released under a Creative Commons (CC) license. Also on this date the Bank launched the new open access repository, the Open Knowledge Repository (OKR). This represents a sea change in the Bank’s approach to publishing, builds on the Open Data initiative and the Access to Information policy implemented in 2010, and is another cornerstone in the Bank’s move toward ever-greater openness and its focus on results and accountability.

Ask Your Questions As We Live Blog From the ABCDE Next Monday and Tuesday

Claudia Sepúlveda's picture

We will be live blogging and Tweeting during the keynote presentations on both days of the World Bank's Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) this coming Monday and Tuesday (May 7-8). 

Hernando de Soto of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (Peru) will be speaking on Monday @ 9am (EST) on 'Live, Dead, and Fictitious Capital' and Timothy Besley of the London School of Economics (UK) will be speaking on Tuseday @ 9am (EST) on 'Transparency and Accountability: Interpreting the Evidence.'

We're keen on your receiving your questions, so be sure to send them our way through the World Bank Live platform.

Please also visit the ABCDE 2012 Website for the full agenda, working papers, and other materials. Also, follow us on Twitter @ABCDEwb and use #wblive or #ABCDE to join the live discussion.

Look forward to seeing you online!

Beyond Hero Worship

Jill Richmond's picture

Julie Battilana of HBSSupporters of social entrepreneurship often cite examples of “heroes” who have successfully built organizations to solve social problems on a global scale. But social entrepreneurship also includes many efforts to fix targeted, local problems rather than working toward large-scale global change. An increasing number of social entrepreneurs are experimenting with ways to use commercially generated revenue to grow and maintain their social impact.

These findings are part of one of the most robust quantitative studies of social enterprise to date. Undertaken by Harvard Business School Associate Professor Julie Battilana and her colleague Matthew Lee, a doctoral student at Harvard Business School, they analyzed 6 years worth of applicant data from Echoing Green. The purpose of the study is to expand the field of vision beyond “heroic stories” that dominate the discussion on social entrepreneurship. In this interview, they share some initial findings from their research.

Do Informed Citizens Receive More, or Pay More?

Philip Keefer's picture

One widely-accepted political economy research finding is that informed citizens receive greater benefits from government transfer programs. The evidence for the impact of information comes from particular contexts—disaster relief in India and welfare payments in the USA during the Great Depression.  Do other contexts yield similar results?  New research on the distribution of anti-malaria bed nets in Benin suggests:  “No.”  Instead, local health officials charged more informed households for bed nets that they could have given them for free.

The Benin context differs in three ways.  First, the policy is not the distribution of cash, but of health benefits.  Households’ access to information then influences not only their knowledge of government programs to distribute such benefits, but also the value they place on them. 

Second, the political context also differs.  In younger democracies, like Benin’s, citizens are more likely to confront additional obstacles, besides a lack of information, in their efforts to extract promised benefits from government.

Do the Bank’s Operational Staff Support the Bank’s Research Department?

Martin Ravallion's picture

The quality of development projects depends in part on how well grounded project preparation is in knowledge about what works and what does not. Development practitioners need to be well informed if their projects are to have impact.

The World Bank’s in-house research department—the Development Research Group (DECRG)—is the main unit aiming to supply relevant research findings to Bank operations, as well as to external clients. It is not a large department, accounting for about 1% of the Bank’s administrative budget. But it produces the majority of the Bank’s research, and has a high profile internationally. Indeed, it is often ranked ahead of almost all universities and think tanks in development economics, measured by the quantity of research outputs, downloads and citations to research findings. For example, the highly-regarded and much-watched ranking done by the IDEAS project currently puts DECRG ahead of all but one university. 

Coping with information overload—with an iPad

Adam Wagstaff's picture

Life before the web was neatly compartmentalized. Research was produced by researchers who wrote articles for academic journals; news was written up by professional journalists who wrote for newspapers and talked on news broadcasts on the TV and the radio; policy was made by politicians and policymakers behind closed doors in smoke-filled ministries in capital cities; and entertainment was crafted by professionals and delivered in theaters, cinemas and on the TV.


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