CGIAR receives external, impartial and expert advice related to strategic planning and positioning, program evaluation and impact assessment. The independent advisory services comprise the Independent Science for Development Council (ISDC), the Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA) and an independent evaluation workstream implemented at the request of CGIAR System Council. CGIAR Advisory Services Shared Secretariat (CAS Secretariat) facilitates and supports these independent advisory services.


The ISDC provides its advice within the broader context of CGIAR’s Strategy and Results Framework (‘SRF’), and successive multi-year CGIAR Business Plans approved by the System Council upon the recommendation of the System Management Board. Guided by terms of reference approved by the System Council, the ISDC has a mandate for:

  • Foresight work to inform CGIAR’s longer term research strategy;
  • Horizon scanning to provide analysis on how emerging trends and developments can be taken into account in CGIAR’s work;
  • Priority setting exercises and analyses integrating both ex-post and ex-ante analyses;
  • Guidance for periodic proposal assessment processes; and
  • Other functions, on the strategic direction of CGIAR and the value of its research agenda.

Members and main affiliations

Holger Meinke

ISDC Chair

Strategic Research Professor – Global Food Sustainability, University of Tasmania, Australia
Nighisty Ghezae

ISDC Member

Director of International Foundation for Science, Sweden
Andrew Ash

ISDC Member

World expert in climatically variable tropical rangelands and agricultural systems, ret. Chief Research Scientist, CSIRO, Australia
Chris Barrett

ISDC Member

Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, USA
Suneetha Kadiyala

ISDC Member

Associate Professor in Nutrition-Sensitive Development, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK
Mandefro Nigussie ISDC Member Director General at Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, Ethiopia
Lesley Torrance

ISDC Member

Director of Science at the James Hutton Institute and Professor of Biology at the University of St Andrews, UK



SPIA is an external, impartial standing panel of experts in impact assessment subject matters appointed by the System Council and accountable to it. Within the context of the CGIAR System, operating according to multi-year CGIAR Business Plans to increase coherence and alignment in CGIAR’s delivery against it Strategy and Results Framework (‘SRF’), and guided by terms of reference approved by the System Council, SPIA is responsible for providing rigorous, evidence-based and independent strategic advice to the CGIAR System on:

  • Efficient and effective impact assessment methods and practices, including those measuring impacts beyond contribution to science and economic performance; and
  • On innovative ways to improve knowledge and capacity on how research contributes to development outcomes

Members and main affiliations

Karen Macours

SPIA Chair

Professor at the Paris School of Economics and researcher at French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA)
Douglas Gollin

SPIA Member

Professor of Development Economics, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford, UK
JV Meenakshi

SPIA Member

Professor of Agricultural Economics and Health Economics, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, India
Travis Lybbert

SPIA Special Initiative Member

Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of California Davis, USA
Kelsey Jack

SPIA Special Initiative Member

Associate Professor of Environmental and Development Economics, University of California Santa Barbara, USA



Guided by a terms of reference approved by the System Council, the CGIAR Advisory Services Shared Secretariat (CAS Secretariat) provides operational support for ISDC, SPIA and implementation of the CGIAR System’s multi-year evaluation plan.

Staff members

  • Allison Grove Smith, Director
  • Nancy Johnson, SPIA Senior Manager a.i. (consultant)
  • Jenin Assaf, Senior Evaluation Officer
  • Ira Vater, Program Officer
  • Mae Maghirang, Administration and Communication Coordinator

The CAS Secretariat is in an ongoing change process; and staff composition will evolve in 2019 and 2020.