Congruence Rules

Research planners often cling implicitly to ideas of "congruence" or "parity" in research funding, i.e., the notion that research resources should be allocated to different RPAs proportionately to the value of production. This is an idea particularly beloved by legislators, finance ministry officials, and non-scientists. A simple "congruence" rule might allocate research funds so that research expenditures per dollar of crop production were equalized across crops. There are many other possible congruence rules. For example, other rules might allocate research funds proportionate to the number of people employed or the amount of land used. These rules share, however, the common feature that they propose allocating research funds in a way depending entirely on the "demand" for research; they do not attempt to account for differences in the "supply" of research across RPAs. It would similarly be possible to equalize research dollars per dollar of crop production across regions or ecosystems. Let E j represent research expenditures on crop i in ecosystem j; and let Yj represent the production of crop i in region j. Similarly, let pi give the price per unit of output of crop i (usually, though not necessarily, taken to be invariant across regions). Then, if AC is a constant; then the congruence rule holds that Ej / pYj = AC,Vi,j

Although the congruence rule is easy to understand and has the virtue of simplicity, it is typically suboptimal in an economic sense. One reason is that there may be greater potential for successful research in some crops or regions than in others. A second reason is that there may be unusually large benefits associated with research gains in particular crops or areas; basing research expenditures on the current value of production will not necessarily capture these benefits. For example, suppose there is a simple constraint to production of maize in one geographic area, such as a particular nutrient deficiency. In the presence of this constraint, the value of production is zero. If the constraint could be removed, the area might produce a great deal of maize. In this situation, then, a congruence rule that is based on the current value of maize production might not allocate any research resources to this area. That might be a shortsighted decision, however, because there is a high potential for research to generate large payoffs. In general, the problem with congruence methods is that they focus exclusively on the "demand" for research and neglect differences in the "supply" of research that might lead to higher payoffs for some RPAs than for others.

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