Public Values of Agricultural Research Conducted Through Land-Grant Universities
Continued improvement in American social well being, international competitiveness of America agriculture, and resolution of production and environmental problems facing American farmers depends on public and private investments in research and development (R&D). R&D generate technologies and provide information that enhance agricultural productivity, environmental quality, and food product quality and safety, and maintain the economic vitality of rural communities. R&D also help evaluate and improve the performance of public policies. Because R&D face funding challenges and time delays, falling behind is easy.
Traditionally, Land-Grant Universities (LGUs) have argued successfully that their research budgets should be financed from public tax dollars because their research contributes public-good discoveries. Recently, federal legislation has changed the way R&D projects secure funding. It has become more common for public universities to receive support from private firms and individuals in the form of contracts, gifts, and endowments. In particular, the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 has provided the opportunity for public universities to undertake research and profit from licensing, selling discoveries, or from supporting start-up companies. Much remains unknown about the long-term impacts of R&D for profit in public universities and there is special concern about the balance of the public and private value of this research and exclusive rights to discoveries or inventions. In recent decades, competitive grants programs have also become a common funding strategy; however, these grants have often—intentionally and unintentionally—given funding advantages to new research areas, larger, higher-profile LGUs, and certain states. Furthermore, these grants have not sufficiently covered research costs. Resolving the debate about the future direction of funding for agricultural R&D and continuing the flow of scientific discoveries is critical to enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability, environmental quality, and social welfare. To do this, a closer look at the decision making strategies for and impacts of agricultural research is needed.
This project has brought together 35 scientists from 25 institutions to develop information for making and implementing agricultural science policy in public and private sectors. Project members have estimated the flow and distribution of benefits and costs of agricultural research. Furthermore, the team has analyzed decision making strategies used by public institutions and private organizations for funding, planning, managing, and evaluating agricultural research. The team has also analyzed opportunities, risks, and net benefits of public-private linkages. By emphasizing collaboration, NC-1034 scientists have reduced research duplication and maximized their ability to compare results. Project members have published reports and given research briefings that have been used by policymakers and have also contributed to textbooks and handbooks for scientists and students. Many of these publications have received awards and the group’s research has been widely cited.
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