The project set out to provide Defra with a framework that they could use for better targeting research in support of sustainable farming and food at the level of individual project assessment and appraisal as well as at higher levels of program assessment and appraisal.
Development of the targeting framework was supported by evidence on the meaning and interpretations of sustainability, the use and value of research, the organisational and operational constraints on decision making, and the functionality of decision frameworks.
Evidence was collected through
- the review of government policy and strategy documents relating to sustainable farming and food policy research and evidence
- discussions with personnel who were involved at some level with Defra’s decision making processes, with Defra’s food and farming science, or with sustainable development in government, but who were in general independent from the day to day activities of the farming and food science administrative teams within Defra
- the collation and critical review of decision making processes, in particular where these were used for targeting research funding, from organisations within the UK and overseas
- regular meetings with a small client group team consisting of the project manager, plus representative departmental specialists in economics, policy and science, and access to previous years’ data on proposed research projects and the information on which funding decisions had been made
- the review of a panel of independent experts in academic subjects of relevance to Defra’s funding.
Based on this evidence the project formulated categorization criteria and queries that might be used to compare the relative value of projects. These were drawn together through a simple spreadsheet with accompanying guidance for use within the Department.