To develop and implement successful policies, policymakers need a clear picture of the options at their disposal and the likely results of their choices. Generating this information can take considerable time, particularly when researchers must collect primary data and develop models. Thus, researchers must look ahead to predict what kinds of information policymakers are likely to need several years into the future. In this period of rapid technological development and changing economic and social conditions, making accurate predictions can be difficult, but failure to do so may result in research that addresses yesterday’s needs and studies that languish unopened on the shelf.
In 1998 IFPRI undertook a yearlong effort to identify the emerging issues and unfinished business relevant for food policy for developing countries in coming decades. We collected viewpoints from a broad constituency, including the various groups with a stake in IFPRI’s work, using correspondence and meetings both at IFPRI and around the world. We consulted with food policy researchers, advisers, policymakers, and donor representatives. Participants included economists, sociologists, nutritionists, agricultural scientists, politicians, and individuals with other disciplinary and occupational backgrounds. In addition, we solicited the views of IFPRI’s staff, management, and Board of Trustees.
These consultations revealed a number of emerging research issues for IFPRI’s consideration. Setting priorities for food policy research in today’s dynamic environment is an ongoing activity that benefits from debate. The issues described here are important elements in the continuing debate on how IFPRI and the broader community of food policy researchers and advisers can be most effective as we enter the new millennium.