3. BARD 40 Year Review: Executive Summary
The US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund, or BARD, was established to advance, foster and fund cutting-edge research carried out jointly by the outstanding scientists of both countries, in order to facilitate promising groundbreaking advances in agricultural research for the mutual benefit of both nations and beyond.
BARD maintains its position as a flagship of excellence in scientific development in this field, with a rigorous selection process and proven methodology that have become the gold standard in competitive funding in this sphere.
While science, technology and knowledge advance exponentially, BARD’s vision and mandate remain constant, to support and advance collaborative research between US and Israeli scientists. This research focuses on key agricultural challenges facing both countries, with the aim of building academic and human capacity, and translating scientific outcomes into scalable agricultural practices and applicable intellectual property for the benefit of the bilateral and global economies.
With BARD marking 40 years of activity in 2019, this milestone serves as an opportune juncture for a comprehensive evaluation of its work. BARD's board of directors appointed a steering committee to oversee and guide an external review, with the twofold objective of assessing its past and present impact, and establishing the next generation benchmarks with the best practices that serve BARD’s mission.
BARD has commissioned a comprehensive review to calculate the outcomes of its investments over 40 years. Especially, the review aims to quantify BARD’s cumulative impact in terms of academic outcomes and the economic benefits of the resulting agricultural applications. If past reviews largely measured economic impact only, BARD’s present review extends the definition of benefit to outcomes delivering worldwide environmental and social impact. With far-reaching global implications, these must be acknowledged as integral to BARD’s impact.
Evaluation Methodology and Process: Overseen by the 40 Year Review Committee, the evaluation was conducted through two complementary pathways: a self-reporting survey among grantees, and a detailed analysis of 20 case studies. The methodology is based on a range of Research Impact Assessment (RIA) approaches, particularly proven Agricultural RIA (ARIA) methodologies.
The survey was conducted among 140 Principal Investigators (PIs) who reported on 224 awards granted between 1994 and 2014. The timeframe was chosen both to include ongoing research and to provide the adequate time lag for evaluating mid-to-long term impact. Additionally, 20 case studies representing different disciplines were selected for an in-depth narrative and quantitative impact analysis.
The Big Picture: Over 40 years, BARD has invested $1.06 billion in 1,330 awards that led to the adoption of about 200 new agricultural practices. BARD has delivered economic, environmental and social benefit worldwide, and expanded academic knowledge with more than 5,600 publications. BARD’s investment has also contributed an estimated $3 billion to the US and Israeli economies in human resource capacity building.
Investment and Economic Impact: The 20 case studies examined for this review have 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 return on BARD’s investment generated by these 20 case studies is a $16.5 return for every dollar invested— a most favorable Benefit-Cost Ratio of 16.5.
Academic Impact: 1,540 PIs (910 from the US and 630 from Israel) took part in the 1,330 BARD-funded studies. An estimated 3,300 students have been involved in BARD research projects; around 1,200 of these continued to academic positions and some 600 others to employment in Agri-Bio industries. Approximately 80% of PIs continued to collaborate in follow-up studies after the initial grant. Additionally, approximately 70% of PIs received further academic funding based on the outputs from their BARD research award.
Academic Publications: BARD awards have generated more than 5,600 published manuscripts, 42% of which appeared in first quartile (Q1) journals (an impact factor ranking in the top 25% of their specific disciplines). 10% of the publications have over 100 citations, further demonstrating the academic impact generated by BARD.
Practical Applications: With much of the funded research achieving significant scientific advances, BARD-funded research has led to the adoption of approximately 200 new agricultural practices worldwide, as well as around 100 patents or breeding licenses. An estimated 40 commercial engagements have been formalized and around a dozen companies were founded based on the outputs of BARD-funded research. The findings indicate that an average of 15 years transpire between BARD’s initial investment and the first applications, indicating that the benefit of recent studies is not yet manifest or quantifiable.
Environmental and Social Impact: BARD-funded projects deliver a wide range of environmental and social benefits, ranging 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 reducing use of chemical pesticides, energy generation and species conservation. These benefits are difficult to quantify in monetary terms, indicating that the current calculations underestimate the full value of BARD research.
The Network Effect: While the immediate stakeholder of BARD-funded research is the scientific community, 80% 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-governmental organizations.
BARD’s Unique Position: From the interviews with scientists and the survey conducted for this evaluation, BARD clearly occupies a unique position within the competitive-grants’ environment. By investing in research projects in early stages, BARD funding enabled still-basic but promising research projects to develop proof-of-concept and a preliminary applicable usage. BARD’s carefully-placed investments in translational research at a critical juncture for projects enabled ground-breaking scientific achievements to reach their potential for academic, economic, social and environmental benefit to the US, Israel, and beyond. BARD adheres to the original selection criteria for proposals, such as scientific merit, benefit to agriculture, mode of collaboration and probability of success. At present, special emphasis is placed on the mode of the collaboration and the anticipated benefits to agriculture. BARD’s comprehensive and rigorous process to select the best proposals in every round was highly regarded by the 20-year review committee, and this process has since been maintained consistently. Widely recognized for their meticulous evaluation and vetting, the initial BARD awards often provided a prestigious steppingstone for early-stage research to leverage subsequent funding from additional sources, allowing the seeds planted by BARD to grow to their full impact.
Delivering True Value: The results of this evaluation showcase the value BARD has delivered to the scientific community, the economies of both countries, and the development of advanced, solid, applicable, competitive, lucrative and sustainable agricultural practices. BARD has deepened the partnership between the US and Israel, creating an even closer partnership between stakeholders in both countries from academia on up to industry and government. BARD has consistently held itself to its own high standards, adhered to its values, and constantly examined itself to ensure uncompromising integrity, enduring scientific vision, and sound fiscal responsibility. The 40-year review steering committee members are deeply grateful for BARD’s role in creating scientific, social and environmental value, and look forward to equally productive years ahead.
Conclusions: The present evaluation demonstrates clearly that BARD’s unwavering dedication has yielded tremendous financial value and return on investment. The findings prove that BARD grants strengthen the academic community and build academic and human capacity through excellent choice of promising projects that address the most pressing global agricultural challenges with innovative science. In addition, the findings support BARD’s methods for fostering and supporting innovation through awards and feasibility studies. Results also demonstrate that the awarded amount requires researchers to seek and gain subsequent awards in order to achieve full impact.
BARD’s value extends beyond economically quantifiable outcomes. By enabling the most innovative of scientific advances in agriculture, BARD has created a ripple effect of environmental and social benefit. From increasing affordable global protein availability to enhancing food security, reducing the use chemical pesticides and lessening the burden of disease in developing nations, BARD’s true impact may well be beyond calculation.
To safeguard BARD’s ability to continue generating this positive impact effectively to its full potential, the committee proposes several key recommendations ultimately aimed at increasing funding availabilities while maintaining and further improving current programs and procedures.
Recommendations: To maintain academic and economic achievements, the 40-year review steering committee recommends adhering to selection criteria emphasizing scientific merit, anticipated benefit to agriculture and the environment of both countries, and the potential for fruitful collaboration and success. To drive substantial impact and higher achievements, the review committee recommends extending research projects to a 5-year period, thus enabling more than one award at implementation stages. To enhance reporting and evaluation, the review committee recommends introducing automated updating to supplement final reports, currently submitted too early in the project to record true outputs and outcomes. To focus research objectives to meet market needs, the review committee recommends expanding the “B-Lever” (academia-to-industry) funding track and encouraging commercial entities to engage with researchers early on. To ensure that the current gender balance among submissions and awards is maintained, the review committee recommends that BARD continue close monitoring of this issue.
Key to BARD’s continued success and impact is funding. BARD relies heavily on its well-managed endowment but unlike most grant agencies has not raised its annual budgets significantly. Award levels have not been adjusted in 35 years and grants remain $310,000 for a 3-year period. There is urgent need to offset the rising costs of research and the decline in purchasing power in a way that will not undermine BARD’s admirable rate of funding. The review committee recommends that the board of directors propose strategies for augmenting disposable funds to bring annual funding close to $20 million ($13 million in addition to the existing $7.1 million in interest on the endowment). The review committee suggests forming an advocacy committee focused on increasing funds for US-Israel Agricultural Research and Development. BARD’s operations are managed with extreme efficiency, and there is little room for cost-cutting; rather, the net available funds must be increased. The initial target should be doubling the average award amount.