9. Committee Recommendations
After careful deliberations, the 40 Year Review Steering Committee has put forth the following recommendations:
- Due to BARD’s successful academic and economic achievements, it is evident that the criteria used by BARD for selection of most projects are thorough. A recent emphasis on “anticipated benefit to agriculture and the environment” was also implemented and was adopted by review panels and TAC members to highlight those projects that were directly relevant to agricultural practice. It is recommended that the selection of fundable proposals continues to be based on scientific merit, the benefit to agriculture and the environment of both countries, as well as the potential of fruitful collaboration and probability of success.
- The cost of conducting research in both Israel and the US has increased considerably compared to its cost 40 years ago. Yet, BARD, which relies heavily on its well-managed endowment, has not received significant increases in its annual budget. Unlike most other granting agencies, BARD has not adjusted its award level for the last 35 years: BARD grants are still $310,000 per 3 years, shared by both US and Israeli partners.
There is urgent need to seek a solution that does not significantly reduce BARD’s admirable rate of funding. It is recommended that BARD prioritize securing additional/supplemental funds to cover deviations such as the increase in research costs and the decline in purchasing power. It is recommended that BARD’s board of directors propose options and devise strategies for augmenting disposable funds to bring annual funding close to $20 million annually ($13 million in addition to the existing $7.1 million which comes from interest on the endowment). It is suggested that the board of directors form an advocacy committee of consultants that will focus on increasing funds for US-Israel Agricultural Research and Development activities.
The initial target should be an increase in average award value of $150,000 for each partner, or an approximate doubling of the average award amount. There should also be an effort to increase the number of fellowships for postdoctoral students, as well as workshops and administrative overheads. BARD’s operations are managed very efficiently, (see recommendation 8) so there is little room for creating additional research through cost cutting. Rather, the net available funds for BARD should be increased.
The evaluation of the economically beneficial projects in this 40-year report showed that to make a substantial impact, a researcher must receive more than one award. Moreover, the evaluation showed that it takes an average of 15 years to develop an innovative idea from seed to a product that can benefit agriculture. Successful projects had to compete and secure funding in subsequent rounds in order to obtain sufficient resources. It is recommended that the board of directors consider extending the research projects up to 5 years to allow some projects sufficient time to carry out the research and achieve higher accomplishments.
- In this respect, it is recommended to expand the “B-Lever” (academia-to-industry) funding track of proposal applications and to encourage companies and commercial entities to be involved in the early research stages, thus allowing focus of some research objectives to meet the market needs.
- A large proportion of the approved expenditure in BARD grants is currently allocated to salaries, supplies and overhead, but not to equipment. It is recommended that when budget permits, application for support equipment purchasing will be permitted together or separately from the grant application.
- The committee was concerned about gender imbalance. However, the ratio of projects awarded to the total submissions among women was identical (even slightly higher) to that among men (Appendices C and D). It is recommended that BARD should continue to carefully monitor this issue.
- The committee recommended that BARD should generate a scientific publication to describe the findings from its 40-year evaluation process, preferably in a highly ranked journal.
- It was noted that the electronic submission and reporting procedures that were recommended by the 20-year review committee were adopted. Also, the final report format was improved accordingly. However, the submission deadline for the final report is usually too early in the project to allow recording of true outputs and outcomes. A supplementary report from completed projects can assess the scientific merit. It is recommended that BARD will further improve its follow-up (publications and patents) to update the outcomes arising from completed projects. BARD is encouraged to introduce automated updating of information to its current electronic reporting system. These will enhance the evaluation of the fund at any future time.
- The steering committee commends the current and prior program staff for their excellent, efficient and effective administration of the program.