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Evaluation of the Agri-Environmental Science Sub-Activity

Report
Office of Audit and Evaluation

The AAFC Evaluation Committee recommended this evaluation report (with changes) for approval by the Deputy Minister on November 14, 2012.


Executive Summary

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Office of Audit and Evaluation (OAE) evaluated the Agri-Environmental Science sub-activity as it was delivered over the period 2009-10 to 2011-12. The purpose of the evaluation was to examine the sub-activity's relevance and performance as required by the Treasury Board (TB) Policy on Evaluation. Under relevance, the evaluation assessed whether there is an on-going need for agri-environmental research, and the extent to which the sub-activity is aligned with government priorities, AAFC strategic outcomes and federal roles and responsibilities. With respect to performance, the evaluation assessed the extent of the progress that has been made towards achieving planned outcomes, and the extent to which it demonstrated efficiency and economy.

Agri-Environmental Science (AES) Sub-Activity

Activities under AES focus on conducting basic and applied research to produce new knowledge about the interaction of agriculture and the environment. The results of this research are intended to contribute to the development of policies, practices and technologies that will improve agri-environmental performance. Under AES, there are two sub sub-activities:

From 2009-10 to 2012-13, a total of 91 AES projects were in progress with an estimated expenditure of $104.1 million in salary and non-pay operating costs. The management of AES is shared between the Agri-Environment Services Branch (AESB) and Research Branch, while research projects, with very few exceptions, are carried out by scientists in the Research Branch. As of July 1st, 2012, the AESB and Research Branch have been consolidated into the Science and Technology Branch.

Methodology

The evaluation gathered quantitative and qualitative data using the following lines of evidence: project review; document review; literature review; key informant interviews with program officials, scientists and other government department officials; bibliometric analysis; an analysis of comparable federal research and development programs, surveys of scientists and costing analysis.

Key Findings

The evaluation resulted in the following key findings:

  1. There is a continuing need for new and deeper scientific understanding of the interaction between the environment and agriculture as the environment changes and the agricultural sector seeks and adopts new practices and technologies to increase its productivity, profitability, competiveness and sustainability.
  2. AES objectives are aligned with the federal government's science and technology, environmental and agricultural priorities, as well as AAFC's strategic outcomes and science priorities.
  3. The federal government's roles and responsibilities with respect to the AES sub-activity are consistent with its historical roles and responsibilities, institutional capacity, international practices, and stakeholder thinking about the circumstances where government can, or should, intervene. Going forward, there are opportunities to further strengthen the engagement of provinces and territories in this area.
  4. AES projects are targeting research questions that can reasonably be expected to provide scientific knowledge about the interaction of agriculture and the environment.
  5. The AES research projects are producing the outputs (peer reviewed scientific publications) required to contribute to the sub-activity's expected outcome of increased understanding of the agriculture-environment dynamic by the science community at or above targeted levels.
  6. While collaboration with internal and external partners has increased through SAGES there are opportunities to further promote collaboration among AAFC scientists and managers, other government departments and industry and to strengthen AES knowledge transfer activities.
  7. Performance monitoring and reporting on input costs and project outputs could be improved to support more robust assessments of program efficiency and effectiveness. SAGES researchers are funded at levels similar to their peers in the Research Branch and in the federal government as a whole.
  8. AES research efficiency is similar to that of public sector research in the U.S. and the EU.

Recommendations

The evaluation recommends that:

  1. The Science and Technology Branch should develop an appropriate performance measurement strategy for the Agri-Environmental Science sub-activity, one that is linked to the department's science priorities and strategic outcomes.

  2. The Science and Technology Branch should examine ways to improve collaboration on agri-environmental research internally and with other government departments, provinces and territories and industry groups.

  3. The Science and Technology Branch should develop and implement a comprehensive knowledge transfer strategy for agri-environmental science based on a broad definition of knowledge transfer as a process that begins in the planning stages and extends through knowledge utilization, and which considers the role and mandate of provinces and territories and industry.

  4. The Science and Technology Branch should develop a reporting protocol to track and report program and project level financial and performance information to support more robust performance monitoring and reporting.

List of Acronyms

AAFC
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
AESB
Agri-Environment Services Branch
AES
Agri-Environmental Science
ARS
Agricultural Research Services
BMP
Beneficial Management Practice
BRM
Business risk management
EC
Environment Canada
EU
European Union
FTE
Full-time Equivalent
GF
Growing Forward
HC
Health Canada
NSERC
Natural Science Engineering Research Council of Canada
NPO
Non-pay operating
OAE
Office of Audit and Evaluation
OAG
Office of the Auditor General
OECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
OGD
Other Government Departments
PHAC
Public Health Agency of Canada
RB
Research Branch
R&D
Research and Development
SAGES
Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Systems
SSHRC
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
TBS
Treasury Board Secretariat
U.S.
United States

1.0 Introduction

Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC), under the Agri-Environmental Science (AES) sub-activity [Program Activity Architecture (PAA) #1.1.1], conducts basic and applied research to produce new knowledge about the interaction of agriculture and the environment. The results of this research are intended to contribute to the development of policy, practice and technology innovations that will improve agri-environmental performance.Footnote 1

AES research is conducted under two streams (sub sub-activities):

1.1 Evaluation Scope and Methodology

1.1.1 Evaluation Scope

In accordance with the Treasury Board Directive on the Evaluation Function, the evaluation examined the sub-activity's relevance, assessing whether there is a continuing need for the research, whether it is aligned with government priorities and departmental strategic outcomes, and whether the federal roles and responsibilities are appropriate. It has also examined the program's performance, the progress that has been made toward achieving planned outcomes, and the extent to which it demonstrated efficiency and economy.

In terms of measuring performance, the evaluation focused on assessing whether, and to what extent, the department has made progress toward achieving its intended outcomes, as opposed to attempting to measure its impacts because the outcomes of the research done in the period under study will only be measureable in two or more years when research projects will be completed.

1.1.2 Evaluation Approach

The evaluation used a mixed-methods, non-experimental design, incorporating multiple lines of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, to assess the programs and address evaluation issues and questions. Qualitative data was used to provide context around quantitative data.

1.1.3 Methodology

The evaluation's lines of evidence were:

1.2 Evaluation Constraints and Limitations

The evaluation was constrained by these factors:

2.0 Program Profile

AAFC agri-environmental research produces scientific knowledge that contributes to the improved environmental performance of agriculture and minimizes the potential negative impacts of agriculture on the air, water, soil and bioresources. It consists of the basic and applied researchFootnote 5 done to provide the scientific knowledge needed to characterize and quantify the effects of agricultural production on the environment, develop BMPs, and to advise policy makers, land resource specialists, extension specialistsFootnote 6 and producers on how to improve agricultural practices and enhance the sustainable management of agricultural resources. Prior to 2009-10, agri-environmental research was undertaken under a number of different programs including Environmental Technology Assessment for Agriculture, Water Quality Surveillance and the National Agri-Environmental Standards Initiative.

As described earlier, AES research is conducted under two streams or sub sub-activities. The first is Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection, the department's continuing agri-environmental research stream funded from AAFC's on-going R&D resources. It comprises research projects that are aligned with AAFC's Science Priorities #5 (Enhancing environmental performance of the Canadian agricultural system) and #6 (Enhancing understanding of Canadian bioresources and protecting and conserving their genetic diversity). The expected results of the knowledge produced by this research include the development of new technologies, tools and BMPs.

The second is the Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Systems (SAGES) initiative, which is funded as part of Growing Forward for four years ending March 2013. The Growing Forward Multilateral Framework Agreement describes SAGES as an agri-environmental initiative designed to "...focus on the environmental challenges related to the identified priorities of the quality and use of water, and adaptation to and mitigation of climate change..."Footnote 7 As is the case for Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection research, SAGES is expected to produce new knowledge that will contribute to the development of new technologies, tools and BMPs while focusing on the water and climate change priorities.

The SAGES initiative is further distinguished and focused by the fact that this was designed to fund two categories of research:

2.1 Governance

During the period covered by the evaluation, the Agri-Environment Service Branch (AESB) and Research Branch each had responsibilities for the management of AES. AESB had overall responsibility to manage SAGES, including planning, and implementing SAGES projects including budget management and resource allocation, while the Research Branch was responsible for the day to day research activities; local science directors and research managers were responsible for including project monitoring and reporting, and the dissemination of research results and findings, in particular. Day to day project management, adjustments to budgets and work plans and resource allocations were under joint responsibility of two directors, one from each Branch.

Given their shared interests and responsibilities, the Branches established the Agri-Environmental Science Steering Committee in 2011 with a mandate to develop branch-level strategies that support the Environment Strategic Plan and the Innovation Strategic Plan. The committee was co-chaired by the Director Generals of Agri-Environmental Knowledge, Innovation and Technology, AESB, and Science Policy and Planning, Research Branch.

In the case of Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection projects, the Research Branch was responsible for the management and administrative aspects.

2.2 Program Activities

The activities associated with AES include:

Project Selection: The Research Branch project selection process begins with a call for proposals that identifies the targets, priorities and criteria for each funding round. Interested scientists then develop and submit their proposals which are first subject to management review that rates the proposals against the priorities and criteria. After the initial management screening, the surviving proposals are circulated for examination by an external peer review panel that assesses the proposal's scientific quality. Once the peer review results are known, the proposals are submitted for executive review and decision. The process provides opportunities for modifications to proposals at key planning and approval stages and an appeal in the event a proposal is not approved. The research project selection process diagram can be found in Appendix C.

For SAGES, the competitive process resulted in 73 Letters of Intent, 40 of which were invited to submit 24 integrated full proposals, totalling $30 million. Only 23 principal investigators received funding for SAGES projects, with approximately an annual average of 115 full-time scientists.

Research Projects: The evaluation, however, limited its inquiries to the 91 projects that were active in the three-year period 2009-10 to 2011-12 (25 SAGES projects and 66 Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection projects).Footnote 8 Table 1 presents data profiling the size of the two groups of AES projects. A list of these projects is presented in Appendix A.

Table 1: Total Project NPO Budget for the period 2009-2012
Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection SAGES
Average $97,215 $1,062,288
Maximum $700,000 $3,938,000
Minimum $15,200 $96,000
Median $62,900 $770,000

Monitoring and Reporting: The scientists leading each AES project must submit an annual report covering the project's progress, variances and achievements that are reviewed and signed-off by the Research Branch Science Director responsible for that area of research. In the case of SAGES' projects, AESB and Research Branch managers did an additional review of all the projects at the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year to ensure that the initiative, as opposed to individual projects, was proceeding as planned.

Disseminating Results: AAFC researchers and their collaborators disseminate the results of their research through peer reviewed publications. In addition, they disseminate information through various non-peer reviewed vehicles such as patents, conference proceedings, books and reports.

2.3 Outputs

The primary outputs of AES research are peer reviewed publications that are produced to disseminate the research results within the scientific community. These are augmented by presentations and reports to scientific gatherings. The Research Branch maintains its own database that collects information about peer reviewed publications and patents.

In addition, scientists may produce presentations, reports or other documents to disseminate information about the research and its implications to individuals or groups involved in the development and adoption of agricultural and or environmental policies or practices. While AAFC scientists collaborate in these activities, they are not directly responsible for the knowledge transfer outputs that translate research results into BMPs and other tools, but some do on their own initiative. AAFC scientists generally focus on publishing their research in scientific community publications, that offer highest impact or most appropriate to their work.

2.4 Outcomes

As per the departmental performance measurement framework (PMF), the overall expected outcome for the AES sub-activity is increased understanding by the agri-food sector of the interactions and impact of agricultural practices on the environment (soil, water, air and bioresources) and the potential for using bioresources. That knowledge and understanding forms the scientific basis for development of BMPs and other tools.Footnote 9

2.5 Expenditures

The table below provides a breakdown of the budget and expenditures for SAGES and Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection.

Table 2: Agri-Environmental Science Expenditures (NPO and Salary) ($millions)
Programs 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 Total
Source: AAFC Corporate Finance, June 2012
SAGES 10.1 10 10.3 30.4
Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource ProtectionFootnote 10 28.8 25.6 19.3 73.7
Total 38.9 35.6 29.6 104.1

The actual expenditures were only available at the AES sub-activity level. The expenditure for 2012-13 will be available at the end of the fiscal year. SAGES project funding began in 2009-10 and is to terminate in 2012-13.

2.6 Performance Measurement

There is no specific or fully developed program logic model and performance measurement framework (PMF) for the AES sub-activity.Footnote 11 There are, however, a number of higher-level PMFs that identify a mix of outputs, outcomes and performance indicators for the sub-activity and/or its component parts:

3.0 Evaluation Findings

3.1 Relevance

In assessing the relevance of AES, the evaluation examined the current and continuing need for agri-environmental science research; the alignment of such research with federal priorities and departmental objectives; and the appropriateness of the federal roles and responsibilities with respect to developing knowledge to increase the agriculture sector's understanding of its interaction with the environment.

3.1.1 Ongoing Need

There is a continuing need for new and deeper scientific understanding of the interaction between the environment and agriculture as the environment changes and the agricultural sector seeks and adopts new practices and technologies to increase its productivity, profitability, competiveness and sustainability.

Agriculture and Environment Interaction: The demand for scientific knowledge about how agricultural activities affect the environment, and vice-versa, has evolved. The introduction of new agricultural technologies and practices, including larger, more intensive operations, through the latter half of the 20th Century, has increased general concerns about air and water quality, the impacts of agricultural activities on urban environments, possible threats to human health and other factors. By way of illustration, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reported that the risk of water contamination from agriculture sources has increased since 1981, and the Great Lakes ecosystem is stressed by farm nutrients, pathogens, pesticides and soil sediments from Canadian and U.S. sources.Footnote 12 Similarly, phosphorus levels in soil are a concern in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec.Footnote 13

In one way or another AAFC research has been addressing agri-environmental issues for several decades. The Agriculture Policy Framework (APF), however, was the first injection of targeted funding for agri-environment science. In preparation for the negotiation of an agreement to replace the APF (which expired in 2007-08), AAFC reviewed the state of agri-environmental challenges and concluded that there was a need for better scientific understanding of the interactions between agriculture and the environment, and to inform industry decision-making and national policy development. Building on the APF experience, the department established the SAGES initiative under the Growing Forward Multilateral Framework Agreement for Agriculture.

The scope and significance of the need for new agri-environmental knowledge has evolved in response to many factors, including:

Research and development: The document, literature and project reviews, as well as key informant interviews, identified continuing challenges (e.g. climate change, and water quality and quantity issues) and the need to address these in circumstances characterized by constant pressure for increased productivity, and competitiveness, as well as economic and environmental sustainability. The agricultural science and innovation process is iterative and rolls out over relatively long periods of time, in part because the pace of work is often dictated by the seasonal cycles. Key informants indicated that there is an ongoing need to improve the established BMPs, or adapt them to specific regions. For example, water quality monitoring in the Abbottsford-Sumas watershed found that, while BMPs had been in place for several years, water was still being contaminated by livestock waste. This led to additional research and development in this region.

Key informants noted that where research focuses on looking for more efficient and competitive agricultural practices, additional research is needed to ensure a thorough scientific understanding of the impact of these practices on the environment. For example, the adoption of reduced and zero tillage practices have proven to decrease soil erosion, increase soil organic carbon and improve salinity.Footnote 16

The report of the 2010 GF2 stakeholders' consultations noted that farmers identified needs for research that would lead to the development of new applications and uses for agricultural products, new varieties, improved nutrient management, reduced dependence on fertilizers, and lower overall production costs. The key informants indicated that the research - innovation process has yet to generate sufficient scientific understanding to allow the agricultural sector to achieve long-term sustainability, implying the need to continue with agri-environmental science.

In conclusion, based on the document, literature and project file reviews, and key informant interviews, there is considerable evidence of a continuing need for new and deeper scientific understanding of the interaction between the environment and agriculture as the environment changes and the agricultural sector seeks and adopts new practices and technologies to increase its productivity, profitability, competiveness and sustainability.

3.1.2 Alignment with Federal Priorities and Strategic Outcomes

AES objectives are aligned with the federal government's science and technology, environmental and agricultural priorities, as well as AAFC's strategic outcomes and science priorities.

The AES sub-activity's general objective is to conduct intramural basic and applied research to improve scientific understanding of agriculture's interactions with the environment leading to scientific knowledge that contributes to the discovery of technologies, such as BMPs, to improve the agri-environmental performance of the sector.Footnote 17 The evaluation reviewed Government of Canada publications and policy documents including Federal Budget statements and AAFC foundational documents that articulate the department's strategic outcomes to assess whether AES objectives and activities are aligned with federal priorities and with AAFC strategic outcomes and science priorities.

Federal science priorities: In the 2007 paper Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage, the Federal Government stated that it would focus on research in areas of national interest from a social and economic perspective: environmental science and technologies; natural resources and energy; health and related life sciences and technologies; and information and communications technologies. The document also noted that the Government of Canada would continue to play a role in supporting basic research across a broad spectrum of science, while being more focused and strategic – targeting research in areas of strength and opportunity. The strategy also called for efforts to ensure that federal departments and agencies have access to the science and technology capacity required to fulfill their important policy and regulatory mandates in areas such as environment, health and safety.Footnote 18 AES research addresses economic and environmental priorities. Furthermore SAGES is intended to develop AAFC's internal capacity and enhance its collaboration with scientific communities in OGDs, academia and industry to carry out agri-environmental research.

Federal sustainability priorities: In the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (2010), the Government of Canada adopted three themes that are consistently high priorities for Canadians: a) Addressing climate change and air quality; b) Maintaining water quality and availability; and c) Protecting nature. AES research, especially the SAGES projects address the water and climate change priorities.

Federal agriculture priorities: The Growing Forward Multilateral Policy Framework commits FPT governments to enhancing agri-environmental performance through research. The framework placed an emphasis on improving the sustainability of agricultural production and enhancing the performance and services provided by the agro-system, targeting research on water and climate change.

In Budget 2012, the Government reported that it was working toward a new five-year FPT agricultural policy framework to replace Growing Forward. In September 2012, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Agriculture reached agreement on the content of the Growing Forward 2 policy framework for agriculture, which set out several policy directions for the new framework agreement, including a commitment to move toward more targeted, collaborative and results-oriented approaches to address environmental challenges through better integrated and targeted science efforts.Footnote 19

AAFC Strategic Goals: The department's three Strategic Outcomes include "An environmentally sustainable agriculture, agri-food, and agri-food products sector". AAFC's Science and Innovation Strategic Plan identifies seven science priorities, including one, Science priority #5, that is concerned with enhancing the environmental performance of the Canadian agricultural system.

In summary, the document and literature review and key informant interviews found clear evidence that AES objectives and research activities are aligned with the federal government's science and technology, environmental, and agricultural priorities, as well as AAFC's Strategic Outcomes and science priorities.

3.1.3 Roles and Responsibilities

The federal government's roles and responsibilities with respect to the AES sub-activity are consistent with its historical roles and responsibilities, institutional capacity, international practices, and stakeholder thinking about the circumstances where government can, or should, intervene in conducting basic and applied research. However, there are opportunities to further strengthen the engagement of provinces and territories in this area.

The evaluation examined whether the federal government's role in conducting research under the AES sub-activity is appropriate, that is whether its role is reasonable given its jurisdiction and historical responsibilities, its capacity, the approaches to agriculture research adopted by other countries, and the expectations and understandings of stakeholders. To address this issue, the evaluation gathered evidence through key informant interviews, a survey of AAFC scientists and program managers, and the document and literature reviews.

A consistent role over time: The federal government has been a central player in agricultural research since the passage of the Experimental Farm Stations Act in 1886 when there was little agricultural research capacity in Canada outside of the Ontario Agriculture College at the University of Guelph. The experimental farms were established to do research to discover the methods, breeds, and varieties best suited to the different parts of Canada.Footnote 20 Over the intervening century the role of Canadian agricultural research has evolved.

Over the first decades of the 20th Century, the federal government expanded its national capacity to do research to increase and diversify agricultural production. By the 1950's, most provincial governments had created extension divisions and some had established their own research programs. As well, in the post-war era, private industry began supporting both research and extension on a small scale. Today, there are numerous public and private organizations active in agriculture research including university faculties, provincial governments, industry associations and commercial enterprises doing applied research and facilitating the commercialization of new technologies.Footnote 21

Over the last fifty years, federal agricultural research policy has undergone numerous changes. A report by the Canadian Agricultural Innovation Research Network found that reductions in spending in the 1970's and 1980's led to a consolidation of research facilities and an increase in contracted research to private industry and the universities. More recently, these trends have seen the federal government priorities more focused on initiatives like international trade, food quality and safety, the environment, and the development of new technologies.Footnote 22 While the federal government's role in agricultural research and development is less dominant than in earlier decades, it remains the largest agricultural research institution in Canada.

Potential for market interference: Political science and economic theory holds that government intervention in the economy may be justifiable where it compensates for conditions, such as the cases of public health and environmental health, that the market does not successfully address (market failure). In the current case, researchers and others tend to characterize government intervention to bring about an optimal amount of agri-environmental research as appropriate, even important.Footnote 23 Footnote 24 Footnote 25

Low risk of duplication and overlap: The document review and interviews identified a number of organizations having some capacity to conduct research relevant to the achievement of the federal priorities and outcomes related to an environmentally sustainable agricultural sector:

Given the scope and mandates of the other research agencies engaged in related environmental research, the risk that AAFC activities are duplicating the work of others is low. Further, any risk is mitigated by AAFC's planning and/or project collaboration with these other organizations.

Intramural Research: The AES research is delivered exclusively through intramural activities to carry out agri-environment research.Footnote 26 The role of the federal government in intramural research has a number of benefits as indicated by the literature review and key informant interviews, which include:

Agricultural research is mainly performed on an intramural basis by the U.S. Agriculture Research Services (ARS), with relatively a small extramural research focus. On intramural research the U.S. Congressional Research Services stated that:

From 2005-07, ARS expended $990 million on intramural research; however, in 2012, the U.S. Congressional Research Services stated that new funding mechanisms were being explored due to the constrained federal budget in recent years.Footnote 29

While there are a variety of other approaches that could support federally-funded research and development for agri-environmental scienceFootnote 30, the evaluation noted the following risks associated with extramural or combination of intramural and extramural research:Footnote 31

The benefit of some of these other models is the strengthened engagement of industry and end-users in the research and development. It should be noted that other AAFC programs (e.g. Developing Innovative Agri-Products Initiative and Canadian Agri-Science Clusters Initiative) promote collaboration with academia, industry and end-users through the use of contribution agreements. The AES approach has had limited provincial, industry and end-user involvement. In September 2012, federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Agriculture agreed to increase opportunities for provinces and territories to invest in environmental initiatives as part of the next multilateral framework agreement for agriculture, Growing Forward 2. The new multilateral policy frameworkoutlines a commitment to move towards more targeted, collaborative and results-oriented approaches to address environmental challenges through better integrated and targeted science efforts. Collaborating with industry, academia and the public sector is key to achieving this goal, and strengthening capacities in science and innovation in the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector, and maintaining competitiveness.

International comparisons: One way to assess the appropriateness of the federal government's role in the delivery of agri-environmental research is to compare it to the approaches adopted by other countries with similar social, political and economic characteristics. To this end, the evaluation looked at the roles played by the national governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand and Australia and found that each national government is playing a major role, although using different delivery models.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which has a model most like Canada's, maintains three intramural research agencies and supports a network of state research programs. The largest of the USDA intramural institutions is the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Australia has a similar approach with a mix of intramural and levy-supported research institutes.

France's agriculture ministry does not have an intramural capacity, but the national government has established an arm's length public research institution, the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), which is under the joint authority of, and 80% funded by, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. The United Kingdom and New Zealand also have no intramural capacity, but have arm's length government funded research programs. (See Appendix E International Approaches, for further details).

Stakeholder expectations: The document review found little public discussion about the merits of the federal government's role in agricultural research. There was no expressed opposition to its continued participation and some expressions of support. For example, the report of the 2010 GF2 consultations said that participants highlighted a need for governments to support scientific research and development to improve productivity or to reduce environmental impacts, and industry associations, such as the Canadian Fertilizer Institute and BC Cattlemen's Association, have promoted research partnerships with AAFC.

About 80% of the AAFC scientists and managers (n:44) surveyed for the evaluation strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that AAFC was well-placed to be a major centre for agri-environmental research. In the key informant interviews, proponents of a continuing role for AAFC, including AAFC and OGD managers and scientists, argued that the department is well-placed to deliver agri-environmental research because of its capacity (science expertise, data holdings and regionalized research infrastructure), and its institutional ability to sustain a research agenda that may span decades. At the same time, the key informants emphasized that the department's role is not to be the sole source of agri-environmental research, but a participant and leader in the wider research community.

Provincial Role: Both the agriculture and environment jurisdictions are shared between provinces and territories and the federal government. Provinces and territories have largely relied on AAFC to lead and coordinate agri-environmental research at the national level pursuant to the Experimental Farm Stations Act. The Act permits the establishment of farm stations across Canada and the conduct of research in a number of specific areas pertinent to agricultural productivity and conservation.

Key informant interview data indicates that most provinces have limited research capacity and infrastructure, but are starting to conduct limited basic and applied agri-environmental research. Most provinces fund agri-environmental research through external organizations. Saskatchewan provides funding for agri-environmental research to the University of Saskatchewan through contracts. Quebec and Ontario have established sustained research capacities with some research and development infrastructure. Ontario has done so through the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario and a long-term contractual arrangement with the University of Guelph, while Quebec has the Institut de recherche et de développement en agroenvironnement (IRDA), which is a not-for-profit agency created to "...engage in agro-environmental research, development and transfer activities that foster agricultural innovation from a sustainable development perspective."Footnote 32

Throughout the various AAFC regional research centres, scientists work with provinces at the project level as dictated by their research and to field test their research. Provinces and territories supply extension services that help to create awareness and adoption of new knowledge because of their understanding of local environmental conditions and their responsibility for agriculture and the environment at the provincial level. Document review and key informant interview data indicate that to date, provincial and territorial involvement in planning and priority setting for research has been limited.

Going forward, there is increasing recognition of the need for more place-based information, in order to have the greatest influence on agri-environmental outcomes. Currently, there is no formal relationship between AES programs and the provinces and territories, in terms of priority-setting and research planning, despite the fact that provinces and territories are potential users of the information generated by AES research projects, and they can also contribute to the generation of place-based information.Footnote 33

While the federal government's roles and responsibilities for the delivery of agri-environmental research are consistent with its historical roles and responsibilities, capacity, international practices, and stakeholders thinking about the circumstances where government can, or should, intervene, there are opportunities to strengthen the engagement of provinces and territories, and industry in agri-environmental science research.

3.2 Performance - Progress

This section of the report addresses the issue of program effectiveness. The discussion begins with an examination of program logic and performance measures followed by an explanation of the analytical framework used, and concludes with an examination of the available evidence about the program's progress toward achieving its outcomes, including the potential economic return on investment.

3.2.1 Program Logic and Performance Measurement

The evaluation found that the department has not documented a program logic model, nor established an appropriate performance measurement framework for the AES sub-activity.

AAFC's Science and Innovation Strategic Plan is specific about the department's expectations for agri-environmental research – it is expected to contribute to achievement of the following results by 2013:

The AES program logic, however, does not explicitly relate the production of new knowledge to the development of new BMPs or other innovations. Instead, it focuses on increasing the scientific community's and, subsequently, the agricultural and agri-food sector's understandings of agricultural-environmental interactions. The indicator chosen for this intermediate-level outcome, as described in the departmental PMF, is a count of the "occurrences of technology (and knowledge) transfers to stakeholders." The AAFC documents and publications available for this evaluation do not provide any indication about what benefits "increased awareness" might deliver, nor how counting activities such as "occurrences of technology transfer" might be a measure of awareness.

To date, AAFC's performance measures for research have focused on counting the number of peer reviewed publications generated as the measure of productivity or success. Up until recently, this has been the internationally accepted measure for assessing the performance of research activities. Over the past ten years, awareness has been increasing about the need to develop more meaningful measures for innovation, including research. The OECD has undertaken work in this area, as have other government departments. These issues were also noted in the report of the Independent Panel on Federal Support for Research and Development, which noted that "more extensive performance management information is required to ensure an outcome driven and user-oriented approach to federal support for business innovation. This entails regular public reporting on the outcomes both of individual programs and would inform periodic evaluations, not only against the objectives of individual programs, but also of the programs' relative effectiveness within the overall portfolio."Footnote 35

Similarly, AAFC acknowledged the challenges associated with measuring the performance of innovation-related programming in its recent Meta-Evaluation of Innovation. Under the leadership of the Innovation Working Group (chaired by the Science and Technology Branch) AAFC has been developing more meaningful indicators to measure and establish causal linkages between innovation-related outputs and outcomes. Program officials advise that these will be reflected for new AAFC innovation programs under Growing Forward 2.

The document review identified two research organizations that have agri-environmental research objectives that are very similar to those described in AAFC's Science and Innovation Strategic Plan have adopted performance indicators that directly relate the production of new knowledge to the development and adoption of particular innovations:

In conclusion, the Science and Technology Branch should continue to build on the work that has been done to date, to develop more meaningful performance measures for agri-environmental science.

Recommendation #1

AAFC's Science and Technology Branch should develop an appropriate program logic model and performance measurement strategy for the Agri-environmental Science sub-activity, one that is linked to department's science priorities and strategic outcomes.

Management Response and Action Plan

(Target: September 30, 2013; Responsibility: DG, Cross-Sectoral and Director, Integrated Planning and Reporting)

3.2.2 Analytic Framework

In the absence of a full logic model and performance measurement plan for the AES sub-activity, the evaluators analyzed AAFC's PAA performance measurement framework, the Research Branch PMF and SAGES performance measurement plan to identify planned outputs, expected results and performance indicators, as well as some performance targets for the AES sub-activity. From an analysis of these documents, it appears that the AES sub-activity program logic is as follows:

Normally, an evaluation would endeavour to determine whether a program or policy has achieved its intended outcomes. In this instance, however, the evaluation has focused on whether the sub-activity is making progress toward achieving its intended outcomes. This has been done because most SAGES projects and many Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection projects were planned to end a year or more after the evaluation finished its data collection phase. Further, given the duration of the research and development continuum (activities - knowledge production – awareness - acceptance - adoption), it will be an additional year or more before progress on intermediate outcomes will begin to become evident.

The evaluation has proceeded from the assumption that AES can be considered to be making progress to the extent that the research projects collectively are delivering appropriate outputs. To assess this, the evaluation sought evidence that the projects are:

3.2.3 Targeted Activity

AES projects are targeting research questions that can reasonably be expected to provide scientific knowledge about the interaction of agriculture and the environment.

In order to assess whether AES projects are targeting research questions that are immediately relevant to achievement of the sub-activity's outcomes, the evaluation looked at the project selection processes and criteria, examined a sample of project files, and obtained the views of scientists and managers associated with AES.

AAFC research projects are selected through a competitive process that incorporates a call for proposals, a management review to ensure the proposed research aligns with the goals, criteria and priorities identified in the call for proposals and an external peer review that examines the scientific merits of the proposals. An AAFC 2010 evaluation concluded that Research Branch's processes compared favourably to processes of other similar federal science-based departments and agencies, and international organizations.Footnote 41

The project file review conducted for this evaluation found that the process used for SAGES project selection, which was conducted in 2009 and based on specific criteria, was consistent with the Research Branch approach.

More specifically, the evaluation's document and project review found that the SAGES projects addressed the strategic priorities of water or climate change. Specifically, the management review looked at whether the proposals were aligned with sub-priorities that had been developed during the 2008 program planning phase. The sub-priorities for water were nutrient use efficiency, pesticide reduction, and pathogen reduction. The sub-priorities for climate change (CC) were greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture, GHG mitigation from agriculture, CC & ecosystem shifts, CC & adaptation, and CC integrated modeling. The SAGES projects were also expected to align with one or more key expected results (KER) under AAFC Science Priority 5: Enhance environmental performance of the Canadian agricultural system. The project and document reviews found that the approved projects were aligned as follows:

The Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection projects, with four exceptions, targeted KERs 5.1 to 5.3. The exceptions were identified as contributing to Science Priority 6 (Enhance Understanding of Canadian Bioresources and Protecting and Conserving their Genetic Diversity).

In summary, the AES research projects are targeting research questions that can reasonably be expected to lead to new knowledge that will contribute to the development of technologies and practices or to help assess, prevent, and/ or mitigate negative consequences of agricultural-environmental interactions.

3.2.4 Outputs

The AES research projects are producing the outputs (peer reviewed scientific publications) required to contribute to the sub-activity's expected outcome of increased understanding of the agriculture-environment dynamic by the science community at or above targeted levels.

AAFC, like most research organizations, uses peer review publication and, to some extent, patent counts as measures of knowledge outputs. In order to assess this aspect of AES progress toward achieving its outcomes, the evaluation asked project principal investigators of AES projects that were active in 2009-2010 to report the peer reviewed publications dated 2009 and later that were produced by their projects. Noting that publication reports were obtained for only 49 (75%) of the 66 Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection projects, the analysis of the responses indicates that AES projects have met and exceeded the targets for peer reviewed publication targets (Table 3).Footnote 42

Table 3: PR Publications Reported by Principal Investigators (3 years)
AES Initiative (# of projects) Target Reported Average
Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection (53) 300 314 5.9
SAGES (25) 188 262 10.5
Total (78) 488 576 7.4

In addition to the publications, the principal investigator reports identified one project that has registered a patent,Footnote 43 two projects that have filed patent applications,Footnote 44 another that is preparing such an application, a fifth that had made an invention disclosure, and a sixth that has produced a new BMP.Footnote 45 There were no targets for this type of output.

In order to assess the extent to which the publications have contributed to the dissemination of the research results, the citation data for 360 of the AES articles that are indexed in Scopus were gathered. The data show that the Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection publications (n:210) averaged 4.9 citations per paper, and the SAGES publications (n:150) averaged 9.4.Footnote 46 The number of citations is an indicator of a publication's research impact – the higher the number of citations the greater the assumed scientific impact. Similarly, the higher the average of citations for a group's or project's publications, the greater their assumed scientific impact. While there is no accepted standard or benchmark for this impact measure, and with the caution that the number of citations per publication tends to increase over time, it is noted that a Science Watch examination of productivity of international agricultural research institutions for the period 1996-2006 ranked the University of Guelph 14th with an average of 6.99 citations per publication, suggesting that AES publications are performing reasonably well. Footnote 47 Footnote 48

Aside from the publications, a survey of principal investigators and key informant interview data indicates that scientists are making significant progress in generating scientific knowledge but have a long way to go before tangible results are available. For example, a recent SAGES' project assessed the soil, climatic and agricultural management controls on the magnitude and timing of nitrate loading to groundwater in permeable surficial aquifers in order to develop better mitigation strategies. Potential results regarding raspberry production suggest that a significant reduction in irrigation application during the growing season, with a corresponding decrease in the risk of nitrate leaching, can be achieved with minimal effect on crop growth.Footnote 49

The same evaluation data also revealed areas where scientists are developing scientific knowledge, such as on understanding water quality drivers for certain regions; the optimum dose of nitrogen in canola to reduce risk of leaching; the fate of antibiotics used in the feedlot industry and risk to water and soil quality; manure treatment systems; anaerobic digestion for high solids content organic waste; intelligent nano fertilizers to enhance nitrogen use efficiency; prototype tool for in-season crop forecasting; new methods for measuring soil hydraulic conductivity; new technologies and practices relation to riparian (water) protection and GHG mitigation (a new BMP); and research and recommendations to stop the spread of Wooly Cupgrass that affects crop yields.

In conclusion, the AES projects are producing the kind and level of outputs that will be required for the sub-activity to achieve its immediate outcome: an increased understanding of the interactions and impact of agricultural practices on the environment by the scientific community and, subsequently, the agricultural and agri-food sector.

3.2.5 Collaboration

While collaboration with internal and external partners has increased through SAGES there is room to further strengthen collaboration among AAFC scientists and managers, other government departments and industry.

The 2010 AAFC Science and Innovation Strategic Action Plan Update notes that knowledge generation and innovation in the agriculture, agri-food and agri-products sector require a blend of scientific disciplines which are seldom available in one organization. Similarly, the 2005 document In the Service of Canadians: A Framework for Federal Science and Technology stated that the strong linkages through partnerships, collaboration and integration expand the value and reach of federal science and technology, and enable the government to draw on a broad range of knowledge and experience. These themes are reflected in the emphasis that SAGES has placed on collaboration across AAFC research centres, between AAFC and other federal research institutions, and beyond.

In order to assess whether AES research reflects the expected levels of collaboration, the evaluation assessed the performance of SAGES projects as measured against AESB's targets, and examined the institutional affiliations of the co-authors of the AES-related publications in Scopus.

First, AESB expected that the SAGES initiative would have two benefits in terms of science collaboration and linkages: increased engagement of AAFC internal expertise in knowledge development and networking related to water and climate issues; and increased engagement of external expertise.

Table 4 presents the targets and the results reported by AESB based on a review of annual project reports.

Table 4: Scientist Participation Targets and Results for 2011-12
Target Performance
90% of eligible AAFC scientists (estimated n:100) 186 AAFC scientists participating
80% of targeted disciplines: nutrient cycling (soil physics and chemistry), environmental management (air quality and water quality), soil microbiology, agro meteorology, nutrient management, hydrology, pathogen microbiology, modeling, remote sensing, land use specialists, environmental management (biodiversity, pest ecology, rangeland), and economics All targeted disciplines participating
15 external scientist involved as collaborators 142 external scientists
90% of targeted federal research departments agencies 7 involved

These data indicate that SAGES has exceeded AAFC's targets for collaboration and linkages for scientific and research expertise inputs.
To assess whether the AES outputs – peer reviewed publications – reflect the levels and types of linkages expected for the SAGES projects, the bibliometric analysis looked at the institutional affiliations of the co-authors of the Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection (n:210) and SAGES (n:150) publications indexed in Scopus. The analysis found:

The following table identifies the number of external organizations that had one or more scientist co-author an AES publication included in the bibliometric analysis.

Table 5: External Collaborating Research Organizations by Type and Number
Organizations Collaborating with AAFC SAGES Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection
* A centre is a separate research unit within a department (e.g., the Pacific Environmental Science Centre and the National Water Research Institute (NWRI) are both centres within Environment Canada.
Other Federal Centres* (# of Departments in parentheses) 22 (9) 14 (5)
Provincial Organizations 9 12
Canadian Universities and Other Public InstitutionsFootnote 51 51 53
Industry Organizations 4 4
Foreign institutions (# of Countries in parentheses) 76 (19) 108 (22)

The "Other Federal Centres" data reveal that the publications produced by SAGES projects were far more likely to have scientists from other departments as co-authors. This suggests that the Synergy stream, which was designed to encourage cross-cutting projects jointly led by scientists from AAFC and other departments, had the intended result. Indeed, several key informants expressed the opinion that its provisions for interdepartmental collaboration were one of the more positive features of the SAGES initiative.

By comparison, a survey conducted as part of this evaluation offers conflicting results. The respondents tended to assess AAFC's performance with respect to collaboration as less favourable. The survey asked AAFC scientists to indicate the extent to which they agreed with the statement "AAFC encourages and actively supports project-level collaboration with scientists affiliated with universities and other research institutions in Canada and abroad". Based on a Likert scale, the average score for their responses was 0.3, where 1 would equal "somewhat agree" and -1 would equal "somewhat disagree".

In contrast, when asked to report their degree of agreement with other statements about AES performance, the majority responded positively.

Table 6: Principal Investigator Assessment of AES Performance
Statements Degree of Agreement*
*A score of 3 would indicate that the respondents, on average, "Strongly agreed" with the statement; 2 would indicate that they "Agreed" and 1 that they "Somewhat Agreed." A negative value would indicate a corresponding degree of disagreement.
AAFC is very well placed to be the major centre for the conduct of agri-environmental research in Canada. 2.3
The SAGES selection and approval process identified projects that clearly and consistently focus on either the water or the climate change priority. 1.7
Interdepartmental research teams leads to better agri-environmental research outcomes. 1.7
The current Research Branch project selection and approval processes ensure that the AES research is clearly aligned with the Science Priorities. 1.5
Having research teams made up of AAFC scientists from different regions leads to better research outcomes. 1.5
AES research teams routinely interact with people/organizations who will be involved in using new research results to develop BMPs, innovative technologies and/or regulations. 1.0
AES research is informing the development of program priorities and other public policy. 0.9
AAFC encourages and actively supports project-level collaboration with scientists affiliated with universities and other research institutions in Canada and abroad. 0.3

The source of the qualified views seen in the survey response is partially explained by comments of survey and key informant participants that acknowledge that while the department encourages scientific collaboration, it fails to fully recognize the need to provide NPO for the travel costs or the external collaborator's NPO costs (e.g. lab access costs and hiring post-graduates), as was done for the Synergy projects under SAGES.

The SAGES performance data and the results of the bibliometric analysis indicate that, overall, AES research projects are successfully engaging AAFC scientists and benefiting from the participation of a significant number of Canadian and international researchers and research organizations. However, the data also indicates that there is very little participation with industry and low levels of collaboration with other federal departments outside of special initiatives, such as Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection, which is an on-going departmental program.

While there is good collaboration at the individual project level, there was a lack of coordination and collaboration among AAFC scientists and research centres. In its 2010 audit of scientific research at AAFC, the OAG stated that "in an era of limited research resources in many science organizations and with even broader challenges facing the sector, collaborative research is seen as a way to ensure that the agricultural sector maintains a competitive edge and to leverage resources".Footnote 52 SAGES did foster improvements in this area, but key informant interview data indicates that a culture of competitiveness among AAFC scientists continues to exist and potentially prevents the department from capitalizing on research capacity, producing synergies, complementing internal expertize in areas where scientific capacity is lacking and increasing research efficiency. It should be noted that three key informants did indicate that competitive project proposals sometimes help drive better research proposals.

The document review and key informant interviews suggest that separate agri-environmental science programs have created confusion, decreased collaboration and integration between scientists and external stakeholders and that AAFC should consider and respond to industry associations' request for more research "partnerships" with its centres. For example, it was noted that not many internal AAFC employees understand the overall process of identifying who and what research results to share among SAGES, WEBS, NCGAVS, NAHARP, Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection and the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program.

The key informant interview data indicates that collaboration was left up to scientists and that management does not get involved partly because managers are too "siloed". The data also suggest that focus should be on eliminating silos and using managers to help with collaboration because scientists do not always feel connected to all the research being conducted at AAFC and to follow through on the process of developing and delivering research results.

To investigate whether there were program design and delivery options that would allow for more collaboration than those designs used for the AES sub-activity, the evaluators gathered information on three federal research programs with environmental mandates, a review of open-source program documents, interviews with program managers and literature review, including literature on the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Canada's Independent Panel on Federal Support for Research Development. The selected programs were:

The inquiries found that, while there are variations in the project selection, project reporting and monitoring, and knowledge transfer approaches used by the various programs, there are alternatives for improved collaboration in the delivery of the AES sub-activity.

As an alternative to AES, the delivery models for LWBI, GMI and WEBs were considered in the context of agri-environmental research. The first alternative to AAFC's current approach to funding AES research would be to fund organizations outside the federal government to undertake the needed research. Both WEBs and the LWBI Stewardship component fund extramural environmental research, largely through universities where specialized skills and attention to the needs of target groups are possible, e.g., specific agroclimatic needs. It should be noted that the EU channels substantial funds to universities in member countries for environmental research.

The second alternative delivery approach involves a mix of internal and external research partnerships/collaboration. The Green Mining Initiative of NRCan is an example of sharing resources, leadership and expertize on the program research. The program has core funding along with cost-recovery revenues generated from in-house work such as testing or calibrating samples; however, maintaining the cost-recovery activities was seen as a challenge due to close monitoring and quick turnaround time. Overall, industry involvement helps identify the type of research projects to develop and allows for the immediate use of project results.

A third model for supporting scientific research involves the approach recommended in the Jenkins Report. In the report, the independent panel states that "Canada needs a fundamentally new approach to building public-private research collaborations in areas of strategic importance and opportunity for the economy." To achieve this objective, the report recommended that the National Research Council (NRC) be transformed into "a constellation of large-scale, sectoral collaborative R&D centres involving business, the university sector and the provinces, while transferring NRC public policy-related research activity to the appropriate federal agencies".Footnote 53 Under this model, the report outlined four potential distinct approaches to fund federal R&D:

  1. an industry-oriented non-profit research organization mandated to undertake collaborative R&D and commercialization projects and services, funded by amounts drawn against existing NRC appropriations together with revenue earned from collaborative activities;
  2. an institute engaged in basic research to be affiliated with one or more universities and funded by an amount drawn against existing NRC appropriations together with contributions from university and/or provincial partners;
  3. part of a non-profit organization mandated to manage what are currently NRC major science initiatives and potentially other such research infrastructure in Canada; and
  4. an institute or unit providing services in support of a public policy mandate and to be incorporated within the relevant federal department or agency. Footnote 54

The NRC is currently implementing the recommendations from the Jenkins Report following Budget 2012 decisions. Moving to an arm's length R&D approach is another model that could potentially provide opportunities to improve collaboration closely with academia and industry in key agriculture and agri-food sectors.

In conclusion, while collaboration with internal and external partners has increased through SAGES there is room to further strengthen collaboration among AAFC scientists and managers, OAGs and industry on agri-environmental concerns.

Recommendation #2

The Science and Technology Branch should examine ways to improve collaboration on agri-environmental research internally, with other government departments, provinces and territories, industry groups.

Management Response and Action Plan

Agreed. Science at AAFC includes a collaboration dimension. In fact, SAGES was a program designed to promote/enhance scientific collaboration and, as recognized in the evaluation report, was highly successful in that regard, even exceeding expected results.

STB recognizes the need to continue to improve collaboration both internally and with all external partners.

(Target: March 31, 2014; Responsibility: DG, Prairie Boreal Plains)

3.2.6 Knowledge Transfer

AES research teams are participating in knowledge transfer activities; however, there are opportunities for improvements at all stages of the research and development cycle.

A key assumption in the logic model for AES programming developed as part of this evaluation is that reliable knowledge transfer processes are in place.

In practice, the only processes that are consistently used, monitored, and reported on are peer reviewed publications and various forms of intellectual property protection such as patents. As noted earlier, the department's PMF includes an indicator that refers to "occurrences" of technology/knowledge transfer, but there is no guidance given to explain what activities might be accepted as an occurrence of technology transfer and no mechanisms are in place to capture information about them.

This is not to say that knowledge transfer does not occur. The project file review found that principal investigators are invited to identify project achievements including "...innovations, publications/conferences, technology transfer, capacity building, success stories, media, recognition and other outputs." However, a review of the 2011-12 SAGES reports found only two that had explicitly identified technology transfer events or documents, although a scan of the lists in other reports suggest that they had been involved in similar activities. Further, key informants, while cautioning that it takes a long time for the research findings to be understood, then integrated in public policy or translated in new practices or technologies, did offer several examples of research that led to new BMPs and other innovations.Footnote 55

Several respondents, however, felt that the department was not doing a good job around knowledge transfer, at least with respect to agri-environmental science. They observed that AAFC was producing quality research and effectively disseminating the results within the science community, but having less success reaching policy makers, industry stakeholders and producers. In this regard, when asked to rate the efficiency of a number AES processes, the survey participants scored the procedures and services supporting the knowledge transfer (also referred to as "research translation") to innovations and new technologies the lowest of the AAFC processes they were invited to rate (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Overall Efficiency Rating of AES Processes

Description of this image follows.
Description - Overall Efficiency Rating of AES Processes

Research translation had a rating of 14
Monitoring and reporting had a rating of 46
Project Implementation had a rating of 39
Project Selection had a rating of 29
Call for/development of proposals had a rating of 41

The document review found that concerns about AAFC's knowledge transfer measures are not isolated to agri-environmental science. For example, a 2009 Research Branch gap analysis stated that there was need for "better translation of science to commercial applications via more progressive policies and programs, and better integration between branches."Footnote 56 Similarly, the Office of the Auditor General, in 2010, reported:

5.29 Consistent with standard practices within the scientific community, the Department's scientists continue to share research results through scientific conferences. The Department also communicates with research users through open houses at research centres and by publishing internal and external newsletters. However, it has no systematic process for identifying who to share the research results with or for determining when and how to share those results. A frequent comment made by the stakeholders we interviewed was the need for the Department to improve its communication of research results.Footnote 57

The document review did find that AAFC gives strategic priority to knowledge transfer. For example, one of the seven goals of its Science and Innovation Strategy is: Accelerating adoption and commercialization of scientific knowledge. Also, the commercialization of research is an element of the R&D and innovation initiatives it supports. However, beyond the policies and procedures relating to patents, licencing and other intellectual property matters, the department's knowledge transfer expectations and policies are vague, especially at the project level and the department's expectations of scientists in this area.

In their comments, survey participants and key informants advanced a number of suggestions for improvements including a call for strategies that would allow researchers to obtain a better understanding of what is happening "on the ground" through ongoing engagement with local stakeholders, and procedures to encourage research teams to include the people who are driving the outreach and decision making in the areas that are likely to benefit from the research.

The document and literature review found that most federal research organizations have knowledge/technology transfer policies and practices that, like AAFC policies, focus on research dissemination though peer reviewed publications, commercialization and intellectual property management.Footnote 58 However, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), which has a statutory mandate to promote the dissemination of knowledge and the application of health research, has adopted a somewhat broader approach, one that includes a Knowledge Translation Strategy.Footnote 59

CIHR describes knowledge translation as including "...knowledge dissemination, communication, technology transfer, ethical context, knowledge management, knowledge utilization, two-way exchange between researchers and those who apply knowledge, implementation research, technology assessment, synthesis of results within a global context, development of consensus guidelines and more."Footnote 60 This theme is also seen in the findings of research examining European and North American approaches to the dissemination of environmental research. The guidelines produced by this research emphasize end-user involvement beginning with project planning, the use of intermediaries/brokers and other engagement strategies.Footnote 61

The document review, survey responses and key informant interviews suggest that AAFC could develop its policies and strategy recognizing that "knowledge/ technical transfer" is a broad and complex concept.Footnote 62 In developing its policies, AAFC could give consideration to improvement opportunities such as:

Recommendation #3

The Science and Technology Branch should develop and implement a comprehensive knowledge transfer strategy for agri-environmental science based on a broad definition of knowledge transfer as a process that begins in the planning stages and extends through knowledge utilization, and which considers the role and mandate of provinces and territories and industry.

Management Response and Action Plan

AAFC will be implementing a Knowledge Transfer strategic initiative under Growing Forward 2. Knowledge Transfer (KT) is a key component of the innovation agenda within Growing Forward 2, and the KT Initiative aims to facilitate the transfer of innovative ideas, tools, and practices covering the full range of innovation efforts. Regionally relevant and commodity specific KT approaches will be informed by advice from industry users to ensure knowledge will be transferred according to local circumstances and needs to intended users, farms and firms, thereby enhancing sector competitiveness, profitability, sustainability and adaptability.

(Target: March 31, 2014; Responsibility: DG, Cross-Sectoral)

3.3 Performance - Efficiency and Economy

This section of the report examines the efficiency and economy of agri-environmental science activities, which includes the assessment of resource acquisition and utilization in relation to the production of outputs in support of outcomes. In line with this definition, an efficiency measure was developed by AAFC's OAE by relating inputs to outputs based on similar measures from other jurisdictions. In assessing economy, this report examined the potential return on investment of AES research activities based on project reviews and case studies that have been carried on from previous agri-environmental initiatives, such as Environmental Technology Assessment for Agriculture, Water Quality Surveillance, and the National Agri-Environmental Standards Initiative.

AES research, which is conducted on an intramural basis, is partly "basic" and partly "applied". The key input to AES activities is the funding provided to researchers (Figure 2). The primary measure of output is peer reviewed scientific publications. As a consequence, the efficiency measure used for the purposes of this evaluation is cost per publication, one that is also used by international organizations to determine economy and efficiency in the absence of direct economic impact data of research.

Figure 2: AES Input/Outputs

Description of this image follows.
Description - AES Input/Outputs

Input (Funding) to Program (Design and delivery) to Output (Publications)

3.3.1 Efficiency - Program Costs

AAFC does not have any system or reporting protocol that permits program managers to monitor input costs and project outputs below the sub-activity level or at the project level with the result that managers are unable to routinely assess the effectiveness of program resource allocations, or the efficiency of particular initiatives.

The key inputs to the program are non-pay operating (NPO) and salary costs associated with AES research activities. Even though SAGES received NPO from Growing Forward, the evaluation examined both NPO and salary associated with AES as part of efficiency and economy.Footnote 63 AES expenditures on NPO and salary at the sub activity level appear in Table 2, page 14. Consequently, this section provides information at the sub sub-activity level and below (SAGES and Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air, and Bioresource Protection), as required.

Non-Pay Operating Costs: NPO is used to acquire the goods and services necessary for the execution of AES projects. For example, the largest categories of SAGES NPO expenditures are materials and supplies (e.g. chemical, fertilizer, and related products), professional and special services (e.g. scientific services), and students to help with research tasks (Table 7).

Table 7: SAGES NPO 2010-11
Goods and Services Expenditure ($)
Source: AAFC Corporate Finance, SAP, June 2012
Students 1,217,117
Travel 537,307
Professional & Special Services 1,824,190
Materials and Supplies 2,231,352
Scientific/Technical equipment 144,048
Other 518,064
Total 6,472,077

NPO funding for Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection is significantly less than for SAGES research on a per project and per full-time equivalents (FTE) basis (Table 8 and Table 9). On a per project basis, 2010-11 NPO funding for the former was $49,446, and $247,474 for the latter. On a per FTE basis, the figures were respectively $23,170 and $52,412.

Table 8: AES Research Non-Pay Operating Costs (excluding salary): Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection
2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Notes: i) Funding and FTEs of OGD collaborators in SAGES projects are excluded; ii) FTEs are based on annual planned allocations rather than actual. Source: AAFC Corporate Finance as of June 2012.
NPO $2,968,013 $2,142,532 $890,025
FTEs 122.5 105.1 38.4
Projects 56 45 18
NPO per FTE $24,229 $20,386 $23,170
NPO per Project $53,000 $47,612 $49,446

Table 9: AES Research Non-Pay Operating Costs (excluding salary): SAGES
2009-10 2010-11 2011-12
Notes: i) Funding and FTEs of OGD collaborators in SAGES projects are excluded; ii) FTEs are based on annual planned allocations rather than actual.
Source: AAFC Corporate Finance as of June 2012.
NPO $7,054,051 $6,474,794 $5,691,912
FTEs 127.6 119.1 108.6
Projects 25 23 23
NPO per FTE $55,164 $54,364 $52,412
NPO per Project $281,555 $281,513 $247,474

Salary Costs: According to AAFC's Corporate Financial reporting system - Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing (SAP) - salary, including benefits, over the period 2009-10 to 2011-12 for AES activities was $78.8 million.

There was no salary attributed to AES activities in 2008-09 even though it is known that scientists that eventually had projects approved were devoting their time to project development in that year. This highlights the fact that salary dollars devoted to AES projects may not be fully accounted for in current financial reporting structures.

Table 10: Salary Costs at the Sub Sub-Activity Level ($ million) (excluding NPO)
2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 Total
Note: Salary data is the sum of source funds Growing Forward and general salary.
Source: AAFC Corporate Finance, SAP and OAE, as of June 2012.
Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection $25.8 (89%) $23.5 (87%) $18.4 (80% $67.7 (86%)
SAGES $3.1 (11%) $3.5 (13%) $4.6 (20%) $11.1 (14%)
Total $28.9 (100%) $26.9 (100%) $23.0 (100%) $78.8 (100%)

AES sub-program salaries in SAP (Table 10) do not accord well with planned FTEs in the Research Branch database. On average, 14% of AES salaries are attributed to SAGES over the 2009-2012 period (Table 10). In contrast, 57% of planned AES FTEs were attributed to SAGES over the same period (Table 11).

Table 11: Planned FTEs at the Sub Sub-Activity Level
2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 Total
Source: RBPI Staff Allocation database and OAE, as of June 2012.
Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection 122.5 (49%) 105.1 (47%) 38.4 (26%) 266 (43%)
SAGES 127.6 (51%) 119.1 (53%) 108.6 (74%) 355.3 (57%)
Total 250.1 (100%) 224.2 (100%) 147 (100%) 621.3 (100%)

Due to this apparent anomaly a costing exercise was undertaken, with the help of Corporate Management Branch. A total salary estimate for SAGES was developed based on the planned allocation of FTEs prepared in the project selection process and reported on the Research Branch database. This exercise found that many of the personnel working on SAGES projects were coded for salary purpose to the Research Branch rather than specifically to GF activities.

Based on the evaluation analysis, the estimated salary costs for SAGES were $8.2 million in 2011-12, well above the amount appearing in the SAP system.Footnote 64

In conclusion, AAFC's financial reporting system was not able to accurately identify actual program salary costs below the sub-activity level, with the result that the evaluation had to rely on estimated salary costs for SAGES.

Funding Allotment: Under AES, SAGES is funded through time-limited Vote 1, NPO as part of Growing Forward, while the Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection program is funded through AAFC's Vote 1 – A-base resources.Footnote 65 Salary for AAFC scientists is managed at the program sub-activity level, not tied directly to lower level programs.

In the OAE's evaluation of NAHARP and NCGAVS, program officials and scientists noted that there are challenges in trying to determine the allocation of time spent by AAFC scientists on specific Vote 1 programs. These challenges include:Footnote 66

Notwithstanding these challenges, AAFC does not have any system or reporting protocol that permits program managers to monitor input costs and project outputs below the sub-activity level or at the project level with the result that managers are unable to routinely assess the effectiveness of program resource allocations, or the efficiency of particular initiatives. To some extent, the issue will be addressed going forward through the requirement to develop formal performance measurement strategies for Vote 1 (operating) programs.

Recommendation #4

The Science and Technology Branch should develop a reporting protocol to track and report program and project level financial and performance information to support more robust performance monitoring and reporting.

Management Response and Action Plan

Research Branch has established the Science Management Systems Program (SMSP) to develop a system that will document and standardize business processes, improve quality and repeatability of monitoring and performance reporting, and provide a level of automation which enables better aggregation of research results. A pilot project to develop a monitoring and reporting prototype was successfully completed. The prototype would now require some enhancements to provide linkages to existing AAFC data and reporting mechanisms and to ensure it reflects the change in structure with the new Science and Technology Branch. A project is currently being considered to proceed with these enhancements and implement SMSP across the new Branch.

STB will also collaborate with Corporate Management Branch and Programs Branch to study and present options on how to capture the efforts of AAFC scientists related to program activities.

(Target: September 30, 2014; Responsibility: DG, Cross Sectoral Strategic Direction, Science and Technology Branch)

3.3.2 Efficiency - Comparison to Other Government Departments

SAGES researchers are funded at levels similar to their peers in the Research Branch and the federal government as a whole.

The Research Branch accounted for about 15% of the federal government's intramural R&D expenditures in 2011-12. AES funding of $30 million in the same year accounted for 11% of the Research Branch intramural research.

Intramural R&D expenditures per FTE for SAGES were $139,000 in 2011-12, which is close to the corresponding figure for the Research Branch at $136,000. Both of these figures are moderately higher than the federal government intramural research expenditures per FTE at $124,000 (Table 12).

Table 12: Comparison of Intramural Research and Development, 2011-12
Type Federal Gov't Research Br. SAGES

* Includes research and development and research fellowships.
** Excludes administration of extramural programs, capital expenditures and supporting contracts.
*** Based on 2011-12 SAGES' salary and NPO.
**** Based on planned FTE for 2011-12.
Source: Statistics Canada, Federal Scientific Activities, Catalogue 88-204, AAFC Corporate Finance and OAE estimates as of June 2012.

In-house R&D* $1,770,000,000 $257,000,000 $14,000,000***
Other R&D $44,000,000 $ 13,000,000
Total Intramural R&D** $1,814,000,000 $270,000,000 $14,000,000
R&D FTEs 14,636 1,984 108****
Funding/FTE $124,000 $136,000 $130,000

3.3.3 Efficiency - International Comparison

AES research efficiency is similar to average public sector research efficiency in the U.S. and the EU.

In order to assess the efficiency of AES research, an international comparison of cost per publication was undertaken. A number of sources were consulted including the OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators, the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Science Report 2010 and the European Commission's Innovation Union Competitiveness Report, 2011 edition.

The most appropriate data for making a comparison of efficiency was found in the Innovation Union Competitiveness Report which presents statistics on R&D expenditures and scientific publications for both the U.S. and the EU, including funding per FTE and average number of publications per FTE (Table 13). This information was used to make an indicative calculation of cost per scientific publication for the public sector.

Table 13: Cost per Scientific Publication in the EU and U.S.
EU
(2007 and 2008)
U.S.
(2007)
*Innovation Union Competitiveness Report. pp 150-151, OECD.
** OAE calculations.
Funding per FTE * CAD $162,640 Footnote 67
(EUR €107,000)
CAD $351,764
(EUR €231,424)
Publications per FTE * 0.7 1.54
Cost per publication ** CAD $232,000 CAD $225,000

The bibliometric analysis done for the evaluation estimated that there were a minimum of 576 peer reviewed publications attributable to the AES sub-activity during the period 2009-2012.Footnote 68 Hence, the AES cost per publication over a three year period is estimated to be $180,000 ($104.1M / 576 publications), less than the average costs for the EU and the U.S., as seen in the table above.

The comparison, of course, must be treated with caution for several reasons including that the salary costs for scientists developing SAGES projects in 2008-09 may not be fully accounted for, AES is agri-environment research while the EU and U.S. data relate to all forms of scientific research, and the time periods covered by the AES and the Innovations Union data do not match. Nevertheless, taking these limitations into account, it is reasonable to conclude that the efficiency of AES research activities is similar to average public research in the other jurisdictions considered.

3.3.4 Efficiency - Potential Return on Investment

Much of the evidence from past research indicates that AAFC's agri-environmental science can bring enormous benefits once the information has been translated into beneficial management practices. For example, beneficial management practices related to crop rotation "have the potential to increase or maintain the quantity and quality of soil organic matter, and improve soil chemical and physical properties"Footnote 69, and increase agriculture production over time.

Based on previous case studies, beneficial management practices, such as minimum tillage have significantly reduced the costs of production (e.g., time, fuel consumption, use of fertilizer etc.) and have increased outputs. Footnote 70 They have also led to development of new machinery, an indication of research benefits spilling over to other agricultural sub-sectors. Currently 60% of producers on the Prairies have adopted minimum tillage practices.Footnote 71

AAFC program officials have provided a number of examples that demonstrate that investments in research and innovation have the potential to provide significant economic returns over timeFootnote 72:

Based on project review data, an example of agri-environmental research that has led to the development of a BMP (initiated under the APF period and continued under GF) is the Controlled Tile Drainage (CTD) BMP.Footnote 73 With this BMP, the flow of water drainage is controlled with structures that are installed on tile headers. Based on WEBs economic and environmental performance data on a 480 hectare test watershed over a four-year time period, the CTD increases crop yields by an average of 3% for corn and 4% for soybeans. The cost of installing CTD is approximately $208/hectare and each structure has a lifespan of 25 years. Using a five-year corn and three-year soybean model of net revenues for a typical crop operation, this BMP would amount to an annual benefit of $5,700 ($55/hectares) for corn and $1,200 ($21/hectares) for soybeans. Aside from potential economic returns, in terms of environmental benefits, overall nitrogen loads were reduced by 50-100% as compared to uncontrolled drainage.

A second example of AAFC-funded agri-environmental research that has led to the development of a BMP is the Water Demand Model.Footnote 74 While a specific estimate of the economic value of this research is not yet available, it has the potential to generate economic and social benefits related to reduced costs of production, and water usage. While it is too early to understand the full benefits of the Water Demand Model, research indicates that the Model can be used to determine current and future water requirements for regional agriculture, which will assist in supporting an ongoing, guaranteed water supply. This is important as competition for the resource is high and agriculture in certain regions cannot operate without water irrigation, thereby offering security to agricultural producers. The Model can determine the impact on water demands as changes to the efficiency of irrigation practice are implemented; producers who have efficient systems can save money on water supply and be drought-proofed against future shortages.

The combination of the Water Demand Model with a hydrology model (water supply/demand study) could help determine the relationship between agricultural demand and the provision of ecological goods and services (i.e. in-stream flows for fish; water quality, temperature for fish habitat, etc.). The Model is being used in water planning for a large number of regional water purveyors in British Columbia to assess future risks for Agriculture water supply in the Okanagan. It is also being used to develop a prototype for an Agricultural Water reserve in British Columbia.

In conclusion, while difficult to quantify and attribute, over the long-term, AAFC investments in agri-environmental science have the potential to generate considerable economic and social returns on investment. The challenge going forward will be to develop the measures and systems required so that these benefits can be tracked and reported over time to demonstrate value for money.

4.0 Conclusions and Recommendations

4.1 Conclusions

There is a continuing need for new and deeper scientific understanding of the interaction between the environment and agriculture as the environment changes and the agricultural sector seeks and adopts new practices and technologies to increase its productivity, profitability, competiveness and sustainability.

AES objectives are aligned with the federal government's science and technology, environmental and agricultural priorities, as well as AAFC's strategic outcomes and science priorities. The next agricultural policy framework outlines a commitment to move towards more targeted, collaborative and results-oriented approaches to address environmental challenges through better integrated and targeted science efforts.

The federal government's roles and responsibilities with respect to the AES sub-activity are consistent with its historical roles and responsibilities, institutional capacity, international practices, and stakeholder thinking about the circumstances where government can, or should, intervene. However, there are opportunities to further engage provinces and territories. Further, there is little risk of duplication or overlap, as AAFC is the only Canadian-research based organization with a national agri-environmental research capacity.

AES projects are targeting research questions that can reasonably be expected to provide scientific knowledge about the interaction of agriculture and the environment. Based on evaluation evidence, AES projects address AAFC's science priority 5, to enhance environmental performance of the Canadian agricultural system.

The AES research projects are producing the outputs (peer reviewed scientific publications) required to contribute to the sub-activity's expected outcome of increased understanding of the agriculture-environment dynamic by the science community at or above targeted levels. Due to the level of maturity of the programs, many more peer reviewed scientific publications will continued to be produced after Growing Forward expires.

While collaboration with internal and external partners has increased through SAGES, more work needs to be done to promote collaboration among AAFC scientists and managers, other government departments and industry. The evaluation evidence indicates that outside of special initiatives, collaboration is at low levels, and there is a lack of coordination and collaboration that takes away from capitalizing on research capacity, producing synergies, and increasing research efficiencies. Other program research delivery models exist that may enable more collaboration with other government departments and industry.

AES research teams are participating in knowledge transfer activities; however, there are opportunities for improvements at all stages of the research and development cycle. The document review, survey responses and key informant interviews suggest that AAFC's knowledge transfer expectations and policies are vague, especially at the project level, as well as the department's expectations of scientists in this area.

AAFC does not have any system or reporting protocol that permits program managers to monitor input costs and project outputs below the sub-activity level or at the project level with the result that it is unable to routinely assess the effectiveness of program resource allocations, or the efficiency of particular initiatives. It was a challenge to assess the salary costs for AES in relation to the planned FTEs based the research project database and financial management system because salaries were recorded at the PAA sub-activity level rather than the program level.

AES research projects have the potential to generate considerable economic and social benefits over time. The challenge going forward will be to develop the measures and systems required so that these benefits can be tracked and reported over time to demonstrate value for money.

4.2 Recommendations

  1. The Science and Technology Branch should develop an appropriate performance measurement strategy for the Agri-Environmental Science sub-activity, one that is linked to the department's science priorities and strategic outcomes.

  2. The Science and Technology Branch should examine ways to improve collaboration on agri-environmental research internally and with other government departments, provinces and territories and industry groups.

  3. The Science and Technology Branch should develop and implement a comprehensive knowledge transfer strategy for agri-environmental science based on a broad definition of knowledge transfer as a process that begins in the planning stages and extends through knowledge utilization, and which considers the role and mandate of provinces and territories and industry.

  4. The Science and Technology Branch should develop a reporting protocol to track and report program and project level financial and performance information to support more robust performance monitoring and reporting.

Appendix A: List of AES Projects

Table A: Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection Projects
ID Project Title KER 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 Total
* projects included in the project file review
7 Managing carbon and nitrogen to sustain productivity and preserve environmental health in a changing world 5.1 $38,000 $38,000 $76,000
19 Effect of crop management practices on denitrification, nitrous oxide emissions and denitrifier populations. 5.1 $22,400 $30,400 $52,800
21 Managing plant-associated microorganisms in efficient and sustainable cropping systems 5.1 $48,000 $34,400 $82,400
25 Environment impacts of intensive potato production and effectiveness of beneficial management practices in agricultural watersheds 5.2 $32,000 $28,800 $60,800
31 Managing phosphorus and potassium for environmentally sustainable crop production 5.1 $48,000 $48,000 $96,000
36 Understanding the impacts of agronomic practices on soil organic carbon dynamics and sequestration for fine-textured soils in Southwestern Ontario 5.1 $24,000 $24,000 $48,000
51 Adapting cropping systems to climate change. Phase 1: developing capabilities for monitoring crop growth in response to weather conditions using verified crop growth models, agrometeorology and remote sensing. 5.3 $20,000 $20,000 $40,000
53 Understanding, Predicting and Managing Nitrogen Processes in Soils to Reduce Environmental Losses to Air and Water $196,000 $196,000
54 Integrated management of liquid manure 5.2 $24,000 $24,000 $48,000
56 The impact of agricultural management practices and abiotic factors on the turnover and storage of soil carbon and nitrogen $48,000 $48,000
68 Nutrient and water management of horticultural crops in an era of uncertain water supply 5.2 $35,200 $35,200 $70,400
69 Landscape-scale assessment of hydrology, water quality and aquatic biota in surface waters as a function of agricultural intensity 5.3 $20,000 $20,000 $40,000
70 Phosphorus cycling in agri-eco-systems and development for risk assessment tools and BMPs to improve water quality while maximizing crop productivity 5.2 $20,000 $20,000 $40,000
76 Isotopic tracing of biogeochemical cycling in agriculture 5.1 $20,000 $20,000 $40,000
80 Microbial source tracking and modeling tile drain management at watershed scales to assess and manage the risk of agricultural derived pollution to water courses 5.2 $160,000 $160,000 $320,000
82 Enhancing best-management-practices to mitigate environment and crop production risks associated with salinization. 5.2 $12,000 $3,200 $15,200
93 Étude du comportement de recherche d'hôte et de la réponse aux extrèmes de température des parasitoïdes 6.2 $24,000 $24,000 $48,000
94 Sediment, phosphorus and heavy metal fate in first-order agricultural watersheds: sources, temporal transport and P bioavailability 5.1 $57,600 $57,600 $115,200
106 Quantifying and reducing greenhouse gas, ammonia and particulate matter emissions from agroecosystems. 5.1 $80,000 $80,000 $160,000
122 Detection and fate of recombinant DNA from selected genetically modified crops and feed with respect to their long term environmental sustainability. $33,600 $33,600
135 Supporting Agricultural Risk Management and Long Term Sustainability Through the Use of Satellite Imaging 5.3 $52,000 $52,000 $104,000
137 Developing knowledge and technology to assess and simulate agricultural land use and land management change in support of environmental and economic modeling. 5.3 $28,000 $28,000 $56,000
156 Reducing pesticide contamination from point- and diffuse sources 5.2 $16,000 $16,000 $32,000
163 Integrated Nutrient Management for Improved Productivity and Environmental Sustainability $180,000 $180,000
166 The Impact of Farm Improvements Implemented from Environmental Farm Planning though the Application of Beneficial Management Plans and the Investigation of Pathogen Levels in Wildlife and Livestock Populations in Watersheds. $46,800 $46,800
170 Impact de la gestion des sols sur la dynamique des éléments nutritifs 5.1 $20,000 $20,000 $40,000
182 Improving the Environmental and Economic Performance of Agriculture by Enhancing Soil Quality 5.1 $44,000 $44,000 $88,000
183 Impact de systèmes de production contrastés - transgénique, biologique et conventionnel - sur les composantes de la biodiversité de l'agroécosystème 6.2 $43,760 $40,400 $84,160
194 Long-Term Sustainability of Soil and Crop Management Practices for Canadian Prairie Agriculture 5.3 $64,042 $54,236 $118,278
205 Impact of straw harvest for biofuel feedstock and other uses on soil quality and crop production 5.1 $18,286 $24,206 $42,492
213 Feedlot manure nutrient management: fine-tuning the process and optimizing end use 5.2 $28,000 $28,000 $56,000
214 Development of physico-chemical treatment systems for the separation and concentration of manure nutrients and the production of reusable water 5.2 $40,000 $40,000 $80,000
223 Effectiveness of controlled tile drainage with sub-surface irrigation recycling for mitigating the impacts of three manure sources on water quality and crop production. 5.2 $38,400 $38,320 $76,720
226 Advanced pesticide application technologies for reduced environmental impact. 5.2 $16,000 $16,000 $32,000
227 Biological interactions fundamental to the environmentally sustainable production of high-quality blueberries 6.2 $40,000 $40,000 $80,000
815 Mitigation of nitrate contamination of vulnerable groundwater aquifers by agricultural production 5.1 $72,000 $90,000 $90,000 $252,000
820 Watershed-based assessment of the impacts of intensive potato production on nitrate levels of groundwater 5.1 $32,000 $28,000 $5,000 $65,000
823 Assessment and management of on-farm fate of microbial and chemical contaminants carried in human and animal wastes used as organic fertilizers $200,000 $250,000 $250,000 $700,000
834 Impact de la variabilité climatique sur les dynamiques de l'hôte et ses bioagresseurs $40,000 $40,000
839 Assessing the impacts of climate change and climate variability on the production of annual crops: risks, opportunities and adaptation strategies $28,000 $28,000
1108 Microbial symbionts of insects: detection, identification, and novel applications for pest control 6.2 $48,000 $48,000 $96,000
1278 Advanced Remote Sensing Methods for Assessing Crop Acreages in Canada $30,000 $30,000
1282 Characterizing Forms and Dynamics of Soil Phosphorus in Long-Term Prairie Crop Rotation Plots $47,000 $47,000
1296* The molecular compounds of root exudates associated with soil nitrogen mineralization and its crop uptake are the basis for increasing fertilizer-nitrogen use efficiency 5.1 $87,500 $87,500 $87,500 $262,500
1312 Diversity of Bacillus thuringiensis and its position in the B. cereus sensu lato group - Improving the Safety of Animals, Humans and the Environment $25,000 $25,000
1319* For the soil surface layer, define enhanced taxonomic protocols and model framework to characterize and predict the agri-environmental impacts from land use and tillage on the soil structure fingerprint. 5.3 $30,000 $30,000 $40,500 $40,500 $141,000
1322 Adapting Nitrogen (N) Fertilization to Rainfall Conditions, Soil Characteristics and Climate Variations $65,000 $65,000
1325 Persistence and genomic dynamics of emerging human pathogens in soils $48,000 $48,000
1347 Use of electronic monitoring of insect pest movement in the agricultural landscapes to develop improved best management practices. 5.1 $45,000 $45,000 $90,000
1358* Invasive plants of agro-ecosystems: distribution, dynamics involved and potential management strategies. 5.1 $45,000 $45,000 $45,000 $45,000 $180,000
1375 Environmental nutrient management tools and recommendations for intensive cropping systems 5.2 $35,000 $35,000 $70,000
1378* Root diseases of perennial fruit crops: Influences of climate change and sustainable water management strategies 5.1 $50,000 $50,000 $100,000
1392* The effect of elevated CO2, temperature and drought on life cycle shifts in annual weeds. 5.1 $35,000 $35,000 $35,000 $35,000 $140,000
1432* Developing Earth Observation Tools to Measure the Current and Future Spatial Extent and Productivity in Grasslands of Western Canada 5.3 $183,800 $93,500 $277,300
1483 Atténuation des pointes de crues (APC) 5.2 $10,000 $10,000 $20,000
1599 BARD PHASE II - Dissolved organic matter fractionation and pollutant interactions in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater 5.1 $19,000 $17,000 $17,500 $53,500
1630* Agricultural Impacts and BMPs in Thomas Brook, Nova Scotia WEBs 5.2 $74,250 $144,100 $116,600 $100,100 $435,050
1720 Characterizing the Relationships Among Essential Soil Functions and Dynamic Soil Physical Properties 5.3 $25,000 $25,000
1722* Walking movement patterns of agricultural insect pests: field boundary dynamics. 5.3 $40,000 $40,000 $80,000
1768* Long-term experiments as historical records of microbial community adaptation in evolving agroecosystems: utilizing soil archives to establish a chronosequence of soil microbial biodiversity 5.1 $50,000 $50,000 $100,000
1782 Managing Phosphorus and Water in Soils Long-term Continuously Amended with Animal Manures and Inorganic Fertilizers to Increase Crop Use Efficiency and Reduce Adverse Impacts on Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region 5.2 $25,000 $25,000 $50,000
1788* Further investigations into the impact of pesticide use on crop diseases, microbial populations, plant nutrition and long-term sustainability 5.3 $40,000 $40,000 $80,000
1795 Sustainability of Alternative Crop Production Systems for the Canadian prairies 5.3 $25,000 $25,000 $50,000
1854 Quantifying particulate matter emission factors associated with crop production in Canada 5.3 $13,500 $5,500 $19,000
1855 Long-Term Sustainability of Soil and Crop Management Practices for Canadian Prairie Agriculture 5.3 $25,000 $25,000 $50,000
1889 Net impact of cattle grazing grasslands on methane and carbon dioxide balance 5.2 $25,000 $25,000 $50,000
Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air & Bioresource Protection Total $2,868,638 $2,118,862 $955,100 $473,600 $6,416,200
Table B: SAGES
ID Project Title KER 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 2012-2013 Total

* projects included in the project file review

Source: Research Branch Project Database and AESB.

177 Dynamique de la matière organique du sol : impact des pratiques agricoles et pertes environnementales associées. 5.1 $168,000 $168,000 $336,000
193 Emissions from Animal Agriculture - Livestock and Livestock Facilities 5.1 $48,000 $48,000 $96,000
906 Integrated management of buffers for sustainable nutrient management $60,000 $60,000 $53,000 $53,000 $226,000
1260 Unlocking Soil Processes and Nutrient Cycling Using a Heritage of Long-Term Field Experiments 5.3 $81,600 $81,600 $81,600 $81,600 $326,400
1277 Linking Soil Nitrogen Dynamics to Gaseous (N2O and NH3) Emissions in Agricultural Soils 5.1 $75,000 $75,000 $75,000 $75,000 $300,000
1352 Development of an environmentally-sound dry anaerobic digestion bioprocess to reduce odours, pathogens, and organic pollutants and recover usable green energy and value added by-products from farm solid wastes and energy crops. 5.3 $60,000 $60,000 $71,000 $71,000 $262,000
1458 Improving the resilience of Canadian agro-ecosystems to climate change and variability 5.2 $444,700 $$460,000 $391,000 $460,000 $1,755,700
1459 Mitigating nitrate contamination of vulnerable aquifers by agricultural production 5.1 $400,000 $400,000 $340,000 $400,000 $1,540,000
1461 Understanding and predicting nitrogen dynamics in Canadian cropping systems to improve efficiency of nitrogen utilization and reduce environmental losses 5.1 $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $938,000 $1,000,000 $3,938,000
1462 Assessment and management of water and air quality risks associated with the use of organic fertilizers 5.1 $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $850,000 $1,000,000 $3,850,000
1463 Assessment and management of risk to water from emerging organic contaminants in agroecosystems 5.1 $290,000 $290,000 $247,000 $290,000 $1,117,000
1464 AeroNet: Aerobiota Monitoring and Forecasting Network 3.3 $180,000 $180,000 $153,000 $180,000 $693,000
1465 Understanding the impact of manure management practices on pathogen survival and transport in tile drained agricultural soils. 5.2 $100,000 $100,000 $85,000 $100,000 $385,000
1467 Integrated Earth Observation Information on Crops and Soils for Agri-Environmental Monitoring in Canada 5.3 $388,500 $366,000 $332,000 $355,500 $1,442,000
1468 Development of gene expression indicators and genetic markers to improve nitrogen use efficiency and water use efficiency and accelerate adaptation to climate change in potatoes. 5.1 $200,000 $200,000 $170,000 $200,000 $770,000
1469 Investigations of land use change and BMP implementation scenarios through the application of non-point source water quality modeling to reduce nutrient loadings to tributaries in the Red-Assiniboine Basin 5.1 $100,000 $100,000 $85,000 $100,000 $385,000
1470 Herbicide use reduction by inter-row weed emergence stimulation and detection. 5.2 $50,000 $50,000 $43,000 $50,000 $193,000
1471 Sustaining Grassland Systems in the Face of Climate Change 5.2 $420,000 $400,000 $357,000 $420,000 $1,597,000
1472 Assessing biological community shifts, and nitrogen and carbon transformations during winter in Canadian agricultural soils 5.2 $450,000 $450,000 $383,000 $450,000 $1,733,000
1473 Soil organic matter dynamics in a warming world 5.1 $125,000 $420,000 $414,000 $473,000 $1,432,000
1474 Development of ecological performance standards for sediments, nutrients and pesticides in streams across gradients of agricultural intensity 5.3 $100,000 $100,000 $80,000 $100,000 $380,000
1475 Soil and plant phosphorus assessment and modeling in Canadian agro-ecosystems 5.1 $340,000 $340,000 $289,000 $340,000 $1,309,000
1476 Exploring new farming systems that promote environmental health and enhance ecosystem services 5.1 $65,000 $173,000 $148,000 $180,000 $566,000
1477 The future Canadian agriculture system in a changing world: environmental and economic adaptation, impacts, and risks 5.2 $250,000 $250,000 $213,000 $250,000 $963,000
1478 Determining interactions between land use and climate to evaluate impacts and adaptations to climate variability and change 5.3 $224,600 $257,000 $213,000 $267,500 $962,100
SAGES Total $6,620,400 $7,028,600 $6,011,600 $6,896,600 $26,557,200
AES Total $9,489,038 $9,147,462 $6,966,700 $7,370,200 $32,973,400

Appendix B: References

Appendix C: Research Selection Process

Figure 3: Research Selection Process

Description of this image follows.
Description - Research Selection Process

Call Letter:
Requests for proposals are issued in early August which consists of:

  • Overview
  • Areas of research (priorities) eligible for funding
    • Description
  • Budget
  • Principals for the research proposals
    • Alignment of proposal
    • Financial resources
    • Technical support
  • Eligibility and team composition information
    • Roles and responsibilities of each member
  • Selection Criteria
  • Proposal submissions and peer review timelines
  • Deadlines

Applications for proposals are submitted with suggested referees in mid. November and includes:

  • Name, locations, contact info.
  • Purpose
  • Duration of project
  • Summary of project
  • Expenditures, allocation of expenditures
  • Possible contribution

Personal Data Form

  • Education history
  • Post Grads → Complete (CEAA) pre-screening check list
  • Recognition for work → Complete science ethics declaration statement

Suggested Referees Screen and Selected
The submitted proposal has a list of suggested experts for the review panel. These experts are screened for issues pertaining to conflict of interest by the secretariat before being placed on the peer review panel. The Research Branch Executive Committee (RBEC) of Science also selects from the group of experts to join the Management Review Panel. Both panels will generate a report evaluating the proposals and submit those reports along with their recommendations to the RBEC.

Proposal Evaluation

  • The secretariat forwards the proposal to both management and external panels for evaluation.

Management Evaluation:

  • The Management Evaluation team is comprised of the Scientific Directors
  • Determines whether or not the proposal meets any of the four criterion
  • Recommends or does not recommend approval

The Management Evaluation Criteria are as follows (subjected to change annually):

  • The proposed research is an appropriate role for the Government of Canada
    • AAFC (Research Branch) is the Best or Only Player
    • High Risk or Risk Management
    • Consumer Benefits or Under-serviced Sectors
    • Supports Regulators, Legislated or Decisions-Making Functions
  • Responds to Departmental Mandate Priorities
    • Growing Forward Strategic Framework
    • Market Failure
    • Sector Sustainability
    • Provides a Scientific Support Function
  • Aligns with Departmental Science Priorities
  • Enhances
    • Human Health and Wellness
    • The quality of food and the safety of the food system
    • The security and protection of the food supply
    • Economic benefits for all stakeholders
    • Environmental performance of the Canadian agricultural system
    • Understanding of Canadian bioresources, protects and conserves their genetic diversity
  • Builds on Synergies
    • Capacity Building
    • Strengthen research linkages
    • Strengthen Value chain Linkages
  • Has High Probability of Impact for Canada
    • Increases National Wealth
    • Increases Sustainability
    • Increases Robustness of the Agri-Food sector
    • Positions Canada as a World Leader
    • Contributes to knowledge in a unique way

Factors these evaluations will also consider are as follows:

  • Objectives
  • Relevance of the proposal to the AAFC priorities
  • Background literature
  • Recent Progress
  • Methodology
  • Work plan, time table and outputs
  • Anticipated results, input and significance
  • Feasibility
  • Relationship to research supported by other funding sources

External Panel Evaluation:

Peer Evaluation Panel Selection:

  • There are four different peer review panels within the Agriculture and Agri-Food Research proposal process Animal science, Environment and Ecology, Food Science, and Plant Science
  • Membership of the panels is completed on a yearly basis and the decisions of which scientists who sit on the panels are made on the advice of the panel members for previous years, the science directors, and the Director Generals
  • After panel membership selection has been completed, random selection occurs in order to select the particular referees who will be reviewing a particular research proposal
  • The panel chair with assistance from the Science Director assigns the first and second panel readers for each project
  • A panel of experts rate the proposal on the four criterion

The Evaluation Panel will look at each proposal using the following Evaluation Criteria

  • Scientific Excellence of the Scientists. Which all applicants are expected to document their achievements in their Personal Data Form and demonstrate excellence in these contributions
    • Dissemination of knowledge through the open literature
    • Evidence of specific application of knowledge and improvements to current practices
    • Evidence of the creation of novel products, processes and services that are or may become useful to society
    • Other evidence of contributions to the profession or impact in the field

The scientific excellence of the scientists is assessed on the following points: Quality, Significance, Innovation, and Relevance to the proposal, Impact or potential impact on the scientific community, industry profession or society

  • Scientific Merit, Originality and quality of the proposal
  • Contribution to innovation and/or public good
  • Feasibility and potential to achieve objectives and deliver results

The panel suggests approval or denial as well as how much funding it suggests providing

Management Decision

After both the management evaluation and external panel evaluations are completed, both reports along with their recommendation are forwarded to the RBEC of Science. The RBEC consists of:

  • The Assistant Deputy Minister of Research Branch
  • Research Branch Directors General
  • Research Branch Science Directors
  • Chief Scientists of the International Scientific Cooperation Bureau; and
  • Director of the Office of the Intellectual Property and Commercialization
  • This Committee Panel handles all special situations as required including Conflict of Interest concerns and recourse requests

    The RBEC will look over the proposal and make any adjustments necessary in terms of the proposal as a whole. For example, adjustments to the duration of the project and funding/year may occur. Approved proposals then proceed, along with any adjustments, to receive funding.

    The RBEC will take into consideration both evaluations and come to a final decision. The RBEC holds the power to overrule previous recommendations in order to come to that decision.

Appeal Process:

If a proposal is not recommended there is an avenue for appeal. The applicant fills out the proposal appeal form where they set out the grounds on why they want to appeal the decision. There are only two circumstances in which an appeal can be submitted.

  • Their proposal was unfairly reviewed due to a conflict of interest or
  • A compelling demonstration of error or misunderstanding occurred

The AAFC Enlarged Research Branch Executive Committee secretary then accepts or denies the appeal on the individual grounds set out in the appeal. They then send out the Appeal Board Report to the appellant.

Approved proposals will have to proceed to provide Annual Research Project Report: This will report on how all the research is going with respect to the objectives. After this a Variance Report is submitted which describes how the work differs from the proposed research. Then an Impact Assessment Report will be completed which describes how the variance factors will impact the project. After this is completed the project will come to an end.

Appendix D: Planned FTE Data

Table 14: Planned FTEs: Agri-Environmental Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection Research Projects
2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
Source: Research Branch Staff Allocation database and OAE
Principal Investigator 27.9 23.6 10.2 8.0
Co-Principal Investigator 3.7 3.9 3.7 2.7
Participant 22.8 21.8 7.0 4.6
Support 68.2 55.9 17.6 11.2
Total 122.5 105.1 38.4 26.4

Table 15: Planned FTEs: SAGES Research Projects
2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
Note: Data is for active projects in 2011-12
Source: Research Branch Staff Allocation database and OAE
Principal Investigator 10.5 9.5 8.6 9.7
Co-Principal Investigator 4.4 4.3 3.4 3.6
Participant 41.3 40.6 39.0 39.7
Support 71.4 64.8 57.6 59.2
Total 127.6 119.1 108.6 112.2

Appendix E: International Approaches

United States: The U.S. Department of Agriculture mandate includes expanding markets for agricultural products, support for international economic development, rural development, food safety, providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion, and managing and protecting America's public and private lands working cooperatively with other levels of government and the private sector. In pursuit of these ends, it provides funding to states and maintains three in-house research agencies the Economic Research Service, the Forest Service's Research & Development program and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). ARS is intended to develop scientific knowledge to "... help solve problems in crop and livestock production and protection, human nutrition, and the interaction of agriculture and the environment." It has a large research capacity is large, with some 2,200 scientists and post docs, 6,200 other employees, 90 plus research locations and a $1.1 billion budget for 2012.Footnote 75

France: The National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), which was founded in 1948, is a public research institution under the joint authority of, and 80 % funded by, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, which does not have an in-house research capacity. The Institute is governed by a government appointed board. It does research that concerns agriculture, food, nutrition, food safety, and environment and land management with emphasis on sustainable development. INRA also has a large research capacity with 1,837 researchers, 2,590 engineers, and 4,061 technicians and administrative staff located 19 regional centres comprising 213 research units and 49 experimental units. The organization has fourteen divisions, including one focusing on issues that parallel those covered by the AES sub-activity.Footnote 76

United Kingdom: The UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for that countries food and agriculture policies "... ensuring a thriving farming and food sector with an improving net environmental." The department does not have an intramural research capacity, although some of its "executive" agencies, such as the Food and Environment Research Agency, do. Rather, it commissions research through requests for proposal and non-competitive contracts.Footnote 77 In 2010–11, Defra spent approximately [$172M] for natural and physical sciences and operational research.Footnote 78 The department also or addresses its science and research needs through collaboration with its network of executive and arms-length agencies, national research council's and other government organizations, as well as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a statuary, levy-funded organization.Footnote 79

New Zealand: New Zealand's governmental research capacity is located in Crown Research Institutes. The institutes are governed structured as for-profit companies, although they are wholly state owned and governments Cabinet-appointed directors and annually negotiate "statements of internet" with the government.Footnote 80 The institute for the agricultural sector is AgResearch, which has a mandate "to enhance the value, productivity and profitability of New Zealand's pastoral, agri-food and agri-technology sector value chains to contribute to economic growth and beneficial environmental and social outcomes for New Zealand." It has four research sites and about 850 staff, 625 of who are identified as researchers. The organization's Agriculture & Environment Science Group is doing research around issues similar to those undertaken by under AES: soils & land use; greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation; nutrient management; climate change and adaptation; water quality; and environmental foot printing.Footnote 81

Australia: Australia has an intramural research capacity, as well as a six commodity-specific research "corporations" that are established under statute and partially funded from producer levies: cotton; fisheries; grains; grape and wine; rural industries and sugar. The intramural service is the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.Footnote 82 All of the agencies associated with the department do some agri-environmental science. It should be noted that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) appears to be the more important source of Australian agricultural research, including environmental research, both in terms of capacity and productivity.Footnote 83

Appendix F: International Affiliations

Number of Research Institutions
Country Agri-Environmental Soil, Water,
Air and Bioresource Protection
SAGES
Argentina 1
Australia 7 14
Austria 2
Belgium 2
Brazil 1
Chile 1 1
China 35 11
Columbia 1
Cuba 2
Denmark 1 1
Finland 2
France 4 10
Germany 9
Iran 1
Ireland 1
Italy 2
Japan 1
Netherlands 1 1
New Zealand 1 3
Norway 4
Pakistan 1
Poland 1
South Africa 1
South Korea 5
Sweden 4 2
Switzerland 7
Tunisia 1
United Kingdom 2 6
Ukraine 1
Uruguay 1
United States 21 11
Number of Institutions 108 76
Number of Countries 22 19

Appendix G: Other Government Department Programs

The objective of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative Science component is to provide scientific results to the province of Manitoba that will allow the setting of appropriate targets for nutrient levels in the lake. This activity relies on research projects carried out by Environment Canada scientists with funding of $12 million from total LWBI funding of $17.7 million over 4 years.

The objective of the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative Stewardship component is to reduce nutrient loading in Lake Winnipeg. It is a G&Cs program with typical recipients including conservation districts for BMPs and universities for research. Phase I had a budget of $2.1 million and Phase II of the program will have $7.5 million ($5.5 million for projects and $2 million for governance).

The objective of WEBS is to assess economic and environmental effects of beneficial management practices (BMPs). BMPs are typically developed in small plot settings while WEBS tests them in larger settings - at the watershed level. WEBS Phase I started under the APF with $5 million in NPO funding ($1.25 million contributed by Ducks Unlimited). A G&Cs component was introduced as the program progressed. Currently, the funding is $14.5 million and is delivered through a mix of G&Cs and NPO (40%-60% split but shifts back and forth year by year and averages about 50%- 50%).

The objective of the Green Mining Initiative is to improve environmental performance and promote innovation in the mining industry. The initiative, led by Natural Resources Canada, in close partnership with provincial/territorial governments, industry, academia, NGOs and other stakeholders aims to improve the mining sector's environmental performance and create green technology opportunities. There are four pillars under the program with Ecosystem Risk Management, Mine Closure and Rehabilitation and Mine Waste Management that seem most relevant to AES type activities. Footprint Reduction is the fourth pillar of GMI. The total budget is about $16 million. A-base "core" research projects make up 10-20% of the total. Cost recovery projects account for $6-$7 million and it is a challenge to maintain this level of activity. Approximately half of the cost recovery revenue is service provision (e.g. lab analyses) and half is R&D. Some funding (currently $1 million per year for next 3 years) is received from other areas of NRCan to carry out projects.

Appendix H: Management Response and Action Plan

Evaluation of Agri-Environmental Science Sub-Activity
(SAGES and Agri-Environment Soil, Water, Air and Bioresource Protection)
Recommendation Management Response and Action Plan (MRAP) Target Date Responsible Position(s)
Please provide a "SMART" MRAP that is
Succinct, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely
(refer to instructions provided below)
Insert the day, month and year that the action plan will be completed by management Insert position title of responsible executive
The Science and Technology Branch should develop an appropriate performance measurement strategy for the Agri-Environmental Science sub-activity, one that is linked to the department's science priorities and strategic outcomes.

AGREE

AAFC has changed recently with the creation of a new Science and Technology Branch (STB) merging (AESB) and Research Branch to bring together all of AAFC's research, development and knowledge and technology transfer functions to facilitate an integrated approach to science delivery.

STB will create a Science and Technology Strategic Plan that will include a performance measurement framework. This framework will be linked to the department's strategic outcomes and the performance measurement framework.

September 30, 2013 Rick Butts, DG, Cross-Sectoral
John Sharpe, Director, Integrated Planning and Reporting
The Science and Technology Branch should examine ways to improve collaboration on agri-environmental research internally and with other government departments, and industry groups.

AGREE

Science at AAFC includes a collaboration dimension. In fact, SAGES was a program designed to promote/enhance scientific collaboration and, as recognized in the evaluation report, was highly successful in that regard, even exceeding expected results.

STB recognizes the need to continue to improve collaboration both internally and with all external partners.

STB agrees to examine ways to enhance the exchange of science information and ideas internally.

STB agrees to explore ways to improve collaboration with external stakeholders.

March 31, 2014 DGs, Prairie Boreal Plains

The Science and Technology Branch should develop and implement a comprehensive knowledge transfer strategy for agri-environmental science based on a broad definition of knowledge transfer as a process that begins in the planning stages and extends through knowledge utilization which considers the role of provinces and territories.

AGREE

AAFC will be implementing a Knowledge Transfer strategic initiative under Growing Forward 2. Knowledge Transfer (KT) is a key component of the innovation agenda within GF2, and the KT Initiative aims to facilitate the transfer of innovative ideas, tools, and practices covering the full range of innovation efforts. Regionally relevant and commodity specific KT approaches will be informed by advice from industry users to ensure knowledge will be transferred according to local circumstances and needs to intended users, farms and firms, thereby enhancing sector competitiveness, profitability, sustainability and adaptability.

March 31, 2014 Rick Butts, DG, Cross-Sectoral

The Science and Technology Branch should develop a reporting protocol to track and report program and project level financial and performance information to support more robust performance monitoring and reporting.

AGREE

Research Branch has established the Science Management Systems Program (SMSP) to develop a system that will document and standardize business processes, improve quality and repeatability of monitoring and performance reporting, and provide a level of automation which enables better aggregation of research results. A pilot project to develop a monitoring and reporting prototype was successfully completed. The prototype would now require some enhancements to provide linkages to existing AAFC data and reporting mechanisms and to ensure it reflects the change in structure with the new Science and Technology Branch. A project is currently being considered to proceed with these enhancements and implement SMSP across the new Branch.

STB will also collaborate with Corporate Management Branch and Programs Branch to study and present options on how to capture the efforts of AAFC scientists related to program activities.

September 30, 2014 Director General, Cross Sectoral Strategic Direction, S&T Branch
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