Questioning the role of the public sector in UK agricultural R&D

Barnes, Andrew Peter (2001) Questioning the role of the public sector in UK agricultural R&D. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Agricultural research and development (R&D) has enjoyed public support for much of the twentieth century. For most of this time the agricultural research service (ARS) has experienced growing levels of public expenditure. However, in the latter part of this century radical changes have occurred to both its funding and research focus. Accordingly, there is a need to re-evaluate the role and purpose of publicly-funded agricultural R&D, This encompasses a number of issues which have to be explored. First, there have been numerous studies assessing the returns to public investment in agricultural R&D and, in general, these have found high rates of return which have pointed to under-funding of research. However, these studies have been questioned recently on a number of conceptual and empirical grounds. Taking account of these criticisms, but still using the traditional production function approach, this study has found that the returns to agricultural R&D remain high, but only for certain areas of the agricultural research service. This has questioned the conventional wisdom that public agricultural R&D is under-funded. Second, the role that the private sector has to play is in need of further investigation. Little is known about private sector activity in agricultural R&D and its motivations as regards funding it. As part of this research, a survey was conducted and this found that the private sector, in recent years, has reduced rather than increased research expenditures to compensate for the decline in public funding for applied and development work. Moreover, only a small proportion of private R&D expenditure is devoted to collaborative activity with the public sector, so that any recent shift towards promoting funding of agricultural R&D has been at the expense of research cohesion. Third, the fundamental theoretical basis for public support of agricultural R&D has been the concept of market failure. However, most of the arguments advanced only offer strong support for the public funding of basic research. Therefore, a number of other approaches have been employed to understand the reasons for continued public support of agricultural R&D. Significantly, the relatively recent body of theory connected with transaction cost economics provides some justification for continued public funding of applied research and development work. This, along with arguments advanced by policy analysts, has helped to establish that the ARS still has a role in providing public good research and in ensuring a cohesive framework for the funding of basic, applied research and development to meet effectively the demands of society. In summary, there is no question that the private sector cannot act as a complete and perfect substitute for publicly-funded agricultural R&D and without a publicly-funded UK agricultural research service would be at a severe disadvantage. Instead, emphasis should be placed on trying to integrate private and public research in this area, as so far the evidence suggests that this has not been very successful.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Chris Doyle
Keywords: Agriculture, Public policy
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-72128
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 12:53
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 12:53
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72128

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