Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC)

2018 was a very productive year for ISPC with multiple publications timed to provide inputs to System-wide thinking on the possible future focus of CGIAR research.


The interface between publicly funded research and the private sector is increasingly important and the ISPC/Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) strategic study, “Public Agricultural Research in an Era of Transformation: The Challenge of Agri-Food System Innovation”, explores how the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG) transformation agenda reframes agricultural research and innovation.


The publication proposes that CGIAR develops four new narratives on scaling, partnership, social license and science, that frame critical areas of CGIAR’s activities and role.


The Science Forum 2018 on “Win more, lose less: Capturing synergies between SDGs through agricultural research” was held from 10-12 October 2018 in Stellenbosch, South Africa, co-hosted by the Agricultural Research Council, South Africa. Background papers were prepared prior to the meeting and a summary brief of the meeting is available.


In recent years the ISPC has convened a series of three workshops on foresight in CGIAR, culminating in November 2018 in the launch of the book, “Agriculture and food systems to 2050”, produced by ISPC. Briefs summarizing discussions at the workshops are also available on the ISPC website.


Standing Panel on Impact Assessment (SPIA)

SPIA was an integral part of the ISPC in 2018 and focused on ex-post impact assessment of CGIAR research.


SPIA produced five major synthesis studies during 2018 and many resulted from the SPIA-led Strengthening Impact Assessment in the CGIAR (SIAC) project. These included studies on: the findings of the 25 impact assessments conducted under SIAC; the adoption and diffusion at scale of on-farm natural resource management (NRM) practices; the rigor revolution in impact assessment and its implications for CGIAR; the impact and influence of policy oriented research in CGIAR; and methods for assessing the impact of agricultural research on poverty. In addition, 13 impact briefs based on studies funded under SIAC were produced.


In November 2018, SPIA hosted and co-organized a joint meeting of the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning and Impact Assessment Communities of Practice at FAO in Rome. The objective was to better coordinate the work of the two CoPs in light of recent changes in CGIAR’s reporting standards, integrated performance framework, and independent advisory services (including SPIA itself).


SPIA also integrated data collection on a prioritized set of CGIAR innovations into wave 4 of a nationally-representative household panel survey implemented by the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency. Approaches introduced in wave 3, for example visual aid protocols for identifying sweet potato varieties, will be maintained while adding DNA fingerprinting for varietal identification from crop cuts for sorghum, maize and barley.


ISPC and SPIA launched a new website in late 2017 which resulted in a major improvement in overall visibility. Data collected from Google Analytics from October 2017 until March 2019 indicate that sessions per month increased from 865 to 1,374, users per month increased from 522 to 915, and page views per month increased from 2,507 to 3,307.


Independent Evaluation Arrangement (IEA)

IEA completed a compilation and review of all evaluative studies (evaluations, reviews, and impact assessment studies) in CGIAR over the past 10 years in 2018. This was followed by a thorough study, in collaboration with SPIA, of over 200 impact assessment studies completed over the past 10 years, including mapping to SLOs and thematic areas for a better understanding of coverage and gaps. The studies, analysis and findings will feed into both the new evaluation cycle and be used by CGIAR focal points for future planning of impact assessment studies.


A review of CGIAR’s Open Access – Open Data (OA-OD) policy and implementation support was completed in 2018, in advance of full implementation of the policy across CGIAR. The review team found OA- OD policy had already resulted in a cultural shift in Centers and CRPs, with positive demonstrable changes being implemented across the System.


Recommendations from the review focused on the need for clarity in System-level governance and management for OA and OD oversight and reporting, as well as dedicated resources at Center and System level to support OA-OD practices. It also called for updating the guidance material needed for compliance, and for the different communities (legal, open access, data managers) to come together, as well as an active central role to champion and promote OA and OD across CGIAR. The System Management Board considered all six recommendations and fully agreed with three, and partially agreed to the remaining, with indication that BIG DATA would take on many of the actions and responses proposed.


Forward-looking operational principles for System Council advisory bodies

Building on 5 operational principles established based on broad consultation over the prior 12 months, in October 2018, the System Council approved terms of reference for:



Steps were taken in late 2018 under the oversight of the System Council’s Strategic Impact, Monitoring and Evaluation Committee to ensure that these mandates will be effective by April 2019.


5 operational principles for CGIAR Advisory Services

  • Independence of advice, being neither Funders, members of the System Council, nor implementers of CRPs or Platforms and avoiding other potential conflicts of interest;
  • Improved efficiency, with a view to providing advice that maximizes CGIAR’s impact while reducing overall costs;
  • Improved communication, such that various assessments and evaluation workstreams in the System are aligned with CGIAR Business Plan cycles;
  • Improved and systematic linkages between science and development through innovation and effective partnerships, such that innovation and partnerships are embedded in all aspects of CGIAR’s advisory services;
  • Higher ownership and improved coordination of the advice by the System itself, such that the advice provided by the advisory services needs to be communicated to and formally discussed by the System Council on a regular basis.


System Council Intellectual Property Group (SC IP Group)

Strategic management of intellectual assets by CRPs and their partners is essential for realizing CGIAR’s impact. The CGIAR Principles on the Management of Intellectual Assets (IA Principles) and the accompanying guidelines provide guidance to Centers on ways intellectual assets can be used to achieve impact for CGIAR target beneficiaries and further CGIAR’s strategy. The IA Principles seek to achieve a delicate balance between maintaining the founding value of global accessibility of CGIAR research results and achieve targeted impacts using intellectual property rights and licensing.


The SC IP Group facilitates coordination between the System Council and the System Organization, and advises the System Council in order to enable it to provide adequate oversight of Intellectual Asset management in CGIAR, while safeguarding sensitive and confidential information.


For 2018, the SC IP Group found that CGIAR Research Centers have overall complied with the IA Principles and that the justifications provided in the Centers’ reports were adequate. They further noted excellent progress across all Centers in the implementation of open access policies. In 2018, the Centers reported one provisional patent application, five plant variety protection applications, five Restricted Use Agreements, and 73 Limited Exclusivity Agreements.


Definitions of Restricted Use Agreements and Limited Exclusivity Agreements can be found in the IA Principles. The justifications provided for these intellectual property applications and agreements were found to be consistent with the IA Principles. Highlights from 2018 are available for review in the CGIAR System Intellectual Assets Management Report 2018.


Photo by P.S. Rao/ICRISAT