8. Conclusions: Insights on BARD’s Impact as Derived from the Evaluation
Over 40 years of BARD activities, the number of researchers receiving awards grew to 910 US and 630 Israel researchers from state universities, land-grant colleges, government research institutes (USDA-ARS and ARO), as well as other private and public non-profit research institutions.
These scientists and institutions benefited from collaborative US-Israeli research encompassing the array of agricultural research disciplines covered by the BARD topic panels. Of these researchers, over 80% continued to collaborate with their co-investigators after the termination of the award, both via additional BARD awards as well as by external leveraged funding. BARD awards have thus led to the forging of strong ties and a network of collaborative research spanning between researchers at the top institutions across 47 US states and Israel that has proliferated and borne fruit well beyond a single granted award.
While the immediate stakeholder of BARD-funded research is the scientific community, a large portion of awarded researchers engaged with stakeholders beyond the academic sphere, expanding the circle of BARD’s impact to industry, government, farmers, venture capital funds and non-government organizations. An array of practical agricultural applications emerged following these engagements, and the positive impact of the collaborative research is revealed both by the significant scientific advances, as well as these practical applications that have benefited the US, Israeli and global economies and societies.
Scientific advances, collaborations and novel agricultural practices have emerged also from the subsequent accomplishments of the thousands of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who took part in the research funded by BARD awards over the years. More than half of the engaged researchers continued to hold positions in academia and agricultural-biological industries, providing a foundation for advances and productivity both in academic as well as industry settings. The case studies demonstrated the instrumental role some of these students had in the transformation of the scientific advances to practical innovations, as well as the foundational role the BARD-funded research had in their subsequent research advances, and in the diffusion of the gained knowledge amongst the broader scientific communities as well as additional stakeholders. Moreover, a number of principal investigators of the selected case studies received dedicated BARD postdoctoral fellowships at early stages of their careers that crucially contributed to their research development and direction and to the ensuing innovations that came later in their career.
The quantitative benefits attributed to the 20 selected case studies reveal that BARD has, at a minimum, generated an economic benefit of $2.7 billion to the US economy, $0.5 billion to that of Israel, and another $13.3 billion globally. The economic benefits yield a Cost-Benefit Ratio of 16.5, meaning a $16.5 return on every dollar of the total BARD investment of $1.06 billion (all monetary values are expressed in 2018 dollar-terms). As discussed in the evaluation report, this is undoubtedly an underestimate, as it focuses on selected case studies only, constituting <5% of the total number of awards.
The positive impact derived from the fruition of the collaborative research of the BARD-funded projects extends to a wide range of environmental and social benefits that are not quantified in monetary terms in this evaluation. These range from increasing global protein availability at a competitively affordable cost to potentially lessening the burden of waterborne diseases in developing nations and creating employment through new industries. More than half the case studies demonstrate significant environmental impact such as reductions in the use of chemical pesticides energy generation, as well as species conservation. Monetary benefits of BARD have been extended both to the US and Israel, as well as to many additional countries worldwide. In today’s world, where food safety and security are pressing global issues and sustainability for future generations is often a driver for advances and progress, the diffusion of BARD’s impact beyond the borders of the US and Israel to global communities and organizations provides further testimony to the positive impact of the program and its ability to meet the challenges facing society in the modern world.