FAO/IAEA Co-ordinated Research Projects

Basic Framework

CRPs are networks of institutes belonging to the National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Member Countries of FAO or IAEA that agree to work together on a specific topic or problem relevant to food security in developing countries. Each CRP normally involves between 10 and 15 institutions.
Cost-sharing Research Contracts (normally around $5,000) are awarded on an annual basis to institutions in developing countries or countries in transition that submit technically sound proposals relevant to the subject matter of the CRP in question. Subject to satisfactory progress, these Contracts can be renewed for up to 5 years - the normal period covered by a CRP.
Research Agreements are awarded to institutions from more developed countries where expertise is relevant to the CRP. These are cost-free and are normally valid for the entire period of the CRP.
Research Co-ordination Meetings (RCMs) of scientists participating in a CRP are held approximately every 18 months to review progress, to outline plans for future investigations or to prepare a final report on the results obtained during the course of the CRP. Travel costs for these meetings are covered from the budget of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division.


Complementarity between the Mandates of IAEA and FAO

The research coordinated by the Joint Division is defined by Article III of the IAEA's Statutes which states that: "The Agency is authorized to encourage and assist research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful purposes throughout the world and to foster the exchange of scientific and technical information, as well as the exchange of scientists in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy".

Research is therefore supported which uses isotopes and radiation to:

  • acquire greater understanding of physical, chemical and/or biological processes relevant to food and agriculture
  • develop new or improved technologies (methods, products, processes) for practical application in food and agriculture, including relevant biotechnologies

It is important to note that the mandate is not simply confined to the traditional definition of research i.e. to the process of finding reliable explanations for phenomena (generating new knowledge). It also covers the development of technologies through which both our understanding and control of these phenomena can be obtained and sustainable improvements in the food and agricultural sector realized.

How then does IAEA's mandate to encourage research using nuclear technology support FAO's wider economic and social aims in food and agriculture and vice versa? These aims are defined by FAO's Council and Conference acting on decisions by its Specialized Committees, in particular the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) and the Programme Committee. Consequently, in selecting research activities to be coordinated by the Joint Division, care is taken to ensure that these are fully consistent with the relevant priority issues which are defined by these Bodies for FAO action. In other words, applications of nuclear technology have to be aligned with the appropriate food and agriculture issues and problems, and should complement the work of the other Divisions in FAO. Given the vast range and complexity of these, and the potential for using nuclear technology in so many areas, the focus has to be narrowed so that only those issues and problems are tackled where "nuclear" provides significant added value to the work of IAEA, FAO and to the research agendas of the NARS in developing countries.

In light of the Plan of Action that emerged from the World Food Summit, that focus is on research which contributes to the paradigm of sustainable food security, and in particular which assists Member Countries to implement Commitments 3 and 5 of that Plan, including:

  • Integrated Plant Nutrition and Water Management Systems
  • The Leipzig Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  • The International Plant Protection Convention; Integrated Pest Management
  • The livestock component of the Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), and the Animal Health Standards of OIE
  • The International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides
  • Codex Alimentarius Standards for Food Safety
  • The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures

Details of the relevant nuclear technologies, which throughout the Programme are applied in an integrated manner with non-nuclear methods, and of the specific research themes which are followed in support of these Conventions, Agreements and Programmes are given in the pages describing each sub-Programme's activities.

Research, Science and Technology

It should also be emphasized that science and the use of scientific methods are essential to the research supported through the Joint Division. Whether it is used for the collection of knowledge or for the development and application of technology, only research which is conducted with scientific rigour yields reliable results and explanations, and ultimately improvements in food security. So although there are many players in the sequence of events leading to the acquisition and transfer of knowledge and technology, science and scientists are at the heart of the process. They are the explainers of technology and their knowledge and skills in modifying methods and strategies according to local circumstances may even be of greater value than the technology itself! This means that they have a responsibility to interact with others e.g. extensionists and even market specialists more directly involved in knowledge and technology transfer, and just as importantly, with potential users and beneficiaries of research, i.e. with the farmers themselves.

Our aim, therefore, is to ensure that the research we support is conducted as scientifically as possible, and at the same time is geared to understanding crop and livestock production and food control systems and their weaknesses, and to testing new methods which will overcome these constraints and which can be afforded and sustained. As such, the research activities supported by the Joint Division are geared to encouraging scientific specialists to leave their laboratories and ally their knowledge with the local wisdom of extensionists and farmers, and to impart that knowledge to students and others in the scientific and wider development communities.

Types of Research - "The Research Hierarchy"

Four broad, but inter-related categories of research are generally recognized:

which aims to improve knowledge per se rather than to generate results or technologies that are likely to benefit society in the immediate future.

This type of research is essential for long-term socio-economic benefit but, as implied above, it is not normally directly applicable to the research coordinated by the Joint Division.

research to understand physical, chemical and biological processes relevant to the food and agricultural sector so that their behaviour can be predicted under a variety of conditions and subsequently manipulated to improve food security. The aim is to develop concepts and technology which have potential for widespread application to study or solve problems which are important for sustainable food security. It is for producing knowledge of the "upstream" or "cutting edge" type rather than knowledge which offers immediate solutions to scientific and technological problems, and therefore favourable results cannot be expected for 5 - 10 years.
This type of research is supported by the Joint Division because it provides the platform for further work to evaluate and adapt concepts or technology through more "downstream" research.

research to evaluate technology or concepts acquired through strategic research to determine whether these can be usefully "applied" with or without further refinement for the purpose(s) envisaged. Information obtained through this kind of research should also be applicable elsewhere and therefore it offers significant opportunities for spillovers.
Most research conducted under the Coordinated Research Projects of the Joint Division fits into this category.

research which involves "local tailoring" of well-tested concepts or technology to the needs of "end-beneficiaries" (see below).
This concerns the adaptation of already existing knowledge or technology for adoption by beneficiaries. Its usefulness is mostly "site- or country-specific", and therefore there are more limited opportunities for spillovers. This kind of research is nevertheless also relevant to the research activities supported under the Division's Programme, particularly those involving a cropping or farming systems approach and where the end-beneficiaries (farmers) are involved in planning and/or implementing the research.

It should be emphasized that there is no sharp demarcation between these categories of research, and that in practice, there may be considerable overlap. In general, however, laboratory and field station-type research will fall into the strategic or applied categories whereas research which involves work in farmers fields, and feedback from non-scientific stakeholders is adaptive.

In summary, the Joint Division does not support basic research. Rather, the research activities it coordinates provide opportunities for scientists and institutions in Member Countries to conduct the more "upstream" types of research in which strategic and applied issues with their subsequent opportunities for spillovers drive the research agenda. There are, however, opportunities for research which focuses on the transfer of well-tried and tested technologies but which nevertheless often require significant adaptive research in the process of adoption by end-users or end-beneficiaries, as well as the involvement of an often complex array of stakeholders.

Clients, Users and Beneficiaries of Research

In all cases, the clients of the research coordinated by the Joint Division are scientists and institutions mandated to conduct research within the food and agricultural sector of Member Countries. Their functions are:

  • to generate new understandings and technology which, through the use of atomic energy, add value to the existing body of scientific and technological information in their respective disciplines
  • to disseminate these to the wider scientific community through publications and other means of communication
  • to provide services (knowledge and technology) to others within their own or other socio-economic sectors which enhance the performance of such sectors

There are therefore several potential users and beneficiaries of research outputs. However, in most cases the "end-users" and "end-beneficiaries" are the participating scientists and institutions themselves (i.e. the clients), as well as the international scientific community. On the other hand, some research (adaptive) aims to provide services directly to groups outside the scientific community concerned e.g. farmers, extension workers. Such groups never "use" nuclear technology directly but rather make use of the knowledge or technologies derived from it. It is therefore more accurate to describe these groups as "end-beneficiaries" rather than as "end-users" of nuclear technology

Objectives and Outcomes

CRPs are one of the main mechanisms used by the Joint Division to achieve its programmatic objectives. While each CRP has to make a clear contribution towards the greater understanding and solution of the specific issue or problem it addresses, it must a priori contribute to the wider objectives set for the sub-Programme in question and indeed to the overall missions of FAO and IAEA.
These Projects are therefore important for levering the Division into the process of acquiring knowledge, data, information and experience, and therefore for adding value to its normative role of providing technologies, strategies, advice and other services to its clients in Member Countries that are involved in the research and development processes underpinning food security. They are also important for contributing to the Division's operational role of providing scientific and technical leadership to the processes of planning and implementing FAO and IAEA Technical Co-operation Projects.

At the same time, CRPs have to be relevant and useful to Member Countries, and they should promote complementarity and synergy with on-going national and international activities, including those being supported by other FAO Divisions and by the CGIAR System. This means that in the process of formulating CRPs, a great deal of effort goes into defining the scope of the work to be covered and in choosing the participants.
For the Member Countries, participation in CRPs and dissemination of the knowledge and technologies developed through them:

  • encourages the NARS to be more self-sufficient and inter-dependent by promoting horizontal and vertical co-operation between scientists, institutions and the FAO and IAEA through the joint planning of research and sharing of resources and experiences
  • offers opportunities to obtain new knowledge and better understanding of scientific and technical problems and recommendations for their solution, as well as new or improved technology for studying or reducing constraints in the agricultural sector
  • helps to retain and motivate scientists to work in their country of origin and, in so doing, helps to foster national excellence and intellectual leadership in using nuclear techniques and biotechnology and the knowledge and technologies developed from these, which in turn benefit nationally-funded and partnership activities with others.

How the CRPs are formulated and implemented

Formulation and Announcement of Approved CRPs

The responsibility for formulating CRPs rests with the staff of the Joint Division, but because needs and interests vary between individual sub-Programmes, regions and individual countries, priorities have to be set and balances struck among all these varied expectations. In developing CRPs, we therefore seek guidance and inputs from many stakeholders e.g. scientists working in the NARS and in the IARCs belonging to the CGIAR, and staff of relevant Divisions within FAO's Agriculture (AG) and Economic and Social (ES) Departments and Regional Offices.
Each CRP is then formulated according to a format which describes amongst others:

  • the rationale for the CRP,
  • its research objective,
  • the types of research outputs expected, with appropriate timeframes,
  • the activities needed to achieve these outputs,
  • the milestones for monitoring progress.

After completion of an IAEA approval process, applications are invited for Research Contracts and Agreements through various channels e.g. an annual information circular issued by the IAEA's Director General, the IAEA Bulletin, sub-Programme Newsletters, the Internet and direct communication with scientists and institutes which the Joint Division feels can contribute effectively to the research in question.

Selection of participating institutions

The selection of participants depends on the following main factors:

  • the relevance of proposals to the objective of the CRP in question,
  • the scientific quality of the workplan which is proposed and the likelihood of it being completed within the timeframe of the CRP,
  • the competence of the research team and the availability of necessary laboratory, field or other facilities at the institution (except for items to be purchased in connection with the proposal),
  • the level of funding being requested.

There are obviously restrictions on the number of participating institutions that can be accommodated in a CRP because of budgetary constraints and in the interests of effective coordination. We also avoid awarding more than one Contract in a single country. For these reasons, it is not always possible to include even highly relevant and well formulated proposals in some CRPs.

Coordination: Roles of the Chief Scientific Investigator and of the Project Officer

Each participating institution is represented by a Chief Scientific Investigator (CSI) who is largely responsible for the scientific output of the Contract or Agreement between the institution and the IAEA. The CSI is therefore the main contact point for CRP activities and as such he/she has to ensure that progress reports and reports for presentation at RCMs are prepared to an appropriate standard and at the time required. The CSI is also invited to represent his/her institution at the RCMs which are organized in connection with the CRP.

The Joint Division's main role is to coordinate the research being carried out by the NARS selected to participate in the CRP. This is done by a staff member of the Division with established competence in the topic covered by the research and who acts as the Project Officer. This Officer is responsible for ensuring that each of the NARS undertakes research according to the agreed workplan and that the scientific and technical methods being used are appropriate to the research in question. He/she also provides advice, scientific contacts, literature, and intellectual and moral support to the CSI and co-workers through visits, correspondence, and assistance with analysis of data and preparation of manuscripts for publishing results

How to apply for a Research Contract/Agreement

When a new CRP is about to be initiated, it is announced officially by the IAEA to Member Countries. Details are also sent to FAO Regional and sub-Regional Offices and to institutions and scientists on the mailing lists of the relevant sub-Programme Newsletters.

If you think that your institution can usefully contribute to the research objective of any new CRP being initiated, you should complete an application form, have it signed by the Director or Head of your institution, and send it to the Research Contracts Administration Section of the IAEA. Your proposal will then be evaluated by the staff of the Joint Division and you will be informed within 2-3 months of the outcome. For most countries, there is no requirement to have proposals endorsed by a Government Ministry. However, if your application is successful, the relevant Ministry, FAO Country and Regional Offices and the offices of the Permanent Representatives accredited to FAO will be informed about your participation.
Information concerning the Research Contract Programme

Operational Co-ordinated Research Projects

If you wish to view details about current Projects, click the sub-Programme desired: