Evaluating the outcome of a research project in an annual report is difficult because many projects run over multiple years and there is a period of time between when R&D is undertaken, completed and then adopted by end users as to when the total value of the investment is realised.
The time scale can also vary depending on the activity undertaken. While there can be an instant impact from a project — resulting in change of practices or management arrangements for example — the total outcome may take time to accrue and that can only be measured when looking back.
The FRDC has in place metrics to anticipate potential value and a formal measurement process to evaluate benefit costs, which aligns with the Council of Rural Research and Development Corporations (CRRDC) evaluation framework.
The evaluation program being undertaken by the FRDC is part of the CRRDC work to collaboratively implement a framework of benefit cost analysis to evaluate RD&E activities.
The FRDC assessment uses the methodology developed by the rural RDCs benefit cost framework which is based on the work of the Department of Finance in Introduction to Cost-Benefit Analysis and Alternative Evaluation Methodologies, and subsequent discussions with the department to refine the methodology.
Generating and documenting evidence of impact and demonstrating performance of the RDCs as a collective is also a key objective for the CRRDC.
The purpose of the cross-RDC impact assessment program is to:
- assess and report on the overall returns to rural industries from the portfolio of investments in RD&E by RDCs,
- assess and report on the non-market benefits (including public and spillover benefits) arising from the portfolio of investments in RD&E by RDCs,
- inform government and the public about the nature of those non-market (i.e. public and spillover) benefits from rural RD&E that are conditional on public contributions to the RDCs.
The cross-RDC impact assessment program provides for consistency in the evaluation of investments in rural RD&E made by the rural RDCs in their respective industries. The program involves aggregating the results of regular and rigorous assessment of completed RD&E investments by each RDC. These assessments provide accountability to RDC stakeholders, including government, levy payers, researchers and the community. The aggregation will generate estimates of the performance of the RDC portfolio as a whole and over time.
The 15 rural RDCs are: AgriFutures Australia, Australian Eggs Limited, Australian Meat Processor Corporation, Australian Pork Limited, Australian Wool Innovation, Cotton RDC, Dairy Australia, FRDC, Forest and Wood Products Australia, Grains RDC, Horticulture Innovation Australia, LiveCorp, Meat & Livestock Australia, Sugar Research Australia, and Wine Australia.