Taking Advantage of Research Spillovers

In many cases, agricultural researchers can benefit from "spillovers"originating in research conducted in other crops, other countries, or other areas of science. Biotechnology offers some immediate examples. The pace of biotechnology research has been rapid over the past decade, and repeated breakthroughs have taken place in techniques, tools, and scientific understandings. Although agricultural scientists have been at the forefront of some advances, it is not clear that agriculture can or should lead in the development of upstream biotechnologies. Possibly it makes greater sense for the agricultural sciences to borrow tools and techniques that are developed for other purposes. Similarly, there may be some RPAs where progress can be made effectively by borrowing from work done in other fields.

An example might be research on animal diseases such as trypanosomiasis, a disease that affects both humans and animals. If researchers are currently busy on a trypanosomiasis vaccine for humans, it might be foolish to allocate research resources to the development of a vaccine for cattle. Once a human vaccine is available, it would presumably not take much time to develop a comparable vaccine for livestock. The existence of spillovers may imply that it is optimal to delay certain research programs or to ignore others altogether, perhaps while devoting added resources to programs that are unlikely to benefit from spillovers. This issue is discussed in more detail below.

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