Research and technology Knowledge

Posted April 1998

Managing Agricultural Research -
an Introduction

This Special is adapted from the Introductory Module of "Management of agricultural research: a training manual", by V.N. Asopa and G. Beye (FAO, 1997).


by Louise O. Fresco
Director, FAO Research, Extension and Training Division

There has been a tremendous development of agricultural research in developing countries over the past few decades, during which time investment in agricultural research from both national resources and international assistance has increased markedly. However, agricultural research institutions are generally managed by veteran agricultural research workers promoted for seniority rather than for management training and skills. Further, there are few courses available on the management of agricultural research, and solutions and models used in the developed world may not be appropriate for developing countries.

FAO has actively participated in strengthening the national agricultural research systems of developing countries, and has stressed the importance of effective organization and management for efficient research systems. The need for training in this area is great, and resources - particularly trained human resources - are limited. FAO has therefore developed a training programme on agricultural research management to support the training of trainers, with the expectation of a multiplier effect, and to facilitate a common perception of the structure and terminology of management, thus enhancing communication and understanding among agricultural research managers in discussing management problems, solutions and opportunities.

"Management of agricultural research: a training manual", by V.N. Asopa and G. Beye (FAO, 1997) has been prepared as a basic reference resource for national trainers, to help them structure and conduct their own courses on management at the institute level. A separate manual will cover project and programme management. The manual is based on the four structural functions of management: planning, organizing, monitoring and controlling, and evaluating, each of which is covered in individual modules. Within each module, the manual addresses pervasive management functions, including motivating, leading, directing, priority setting, communicating and delegating, which are at all times a concern to all managers. Topics such as leadership, motivation, human resources management, policies and procedures are treated separately in individual sessions.

The manual as been designed for participatory learning through case studies, group exercises, presentations by the participants and participatory lectures. Throughout the manual, particular effort has been made to use the cases studied to capture the unique and rich experience of developing country research managers in tackling policy, programme and the day-to-day problems of managing research institutions and systems.

"Management of agricultural research", is intended primarily for managers of agricultural research institutes in developing countries and for higher education institutions interested in launching in-service training courses on research management. However, it is hoped that agricultural research managers everywhere will also find it useful. The manual provides a course structure with contents that can be built upon and enriched. Users are therefore encouraged to send suggestions for its improvement.

The manual
Management orientation and decision making
The case method
Summary of course contents
Management training
Planning & management of short, executive development programmes
Ordering the training manual


The task of preparing a training manual on Agricultural Research Institute Management began with the FAO Expert Consultation on Strategies for Research Management Training in Africa, held at the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12-16December 1983. Following the recommendations of the consultation, and on the basis of the curriculum design adopted, FAO embarked upon the preparation of this manual. In the process of its preparation, many agricultural research managers and management specialists have contributed. Besides the two main consultants, namely Dr Ronald P. Black, Denver Research Institute, University of Denver, USA, who prepared the first draft, and Dr V.N. Asopa, Professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India, who prepared the current version of the manual, the contribution of the following specialists in various fields must be singled out: Ramesh Bhat, J. Casas, A.K. Jain, F.S. Kanwar, V.Martinson, Gopal Naik, P. Nath, R.K. Patel, T.P. Rama Rao, S.K. Sharma, E.S.Tayengco, and J.S. Woolston. FAO expresses its gratitude to them all. Special thanks are due to the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), which has willingly made available its valuable experience and relevant materials throughout the preparation of the manual. FAO also thanks all those authors and publishers who have allowed the use of copyright material from their publications, and the courtesy is recognized in each case. This manual has been prepared under the responsibility of the Research Development Centre, Research and Technology Development Division, FAO, with the guidance of: Mohamed S. Zehni, former Director; and J.H. Monyo, E. Venezian and B. M¸ller-Haye, past Chiefs of the Research Development Centre. Scientific supervision was provided by G.Beye, Senior Officer, now Chief, Research Technology and Development Service.


CGIAR - Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
ECA - UN Economic Commission for Africa
FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
ICIPE - International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology
ILCA - International Livestock Research Centre for Africa
ISNAR - International Service for National Agricultural Research
MIS - management information systems
OAU/STRC/SAFGRAD - Consultative Advisory Committee on Semi-Arid Food Grain research and Development of the Scientific Technical and Research Commission of the Organization of African Unity
NARS - national agricultural research systems
R&D - research and development
RDC - Research Development Centre
SEDP - short-duration, executive development programme
TAC - Technical Advisory Committee
TCDC - Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries

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