John Thompson

John Thompson

Food and Agriculture domain convenor

John is a resource geographer specialising in political ecology and governance of agri-food systems, community-based natural resource management and water-environment-health interactions.

John Thompson's Google Scholar profile

  • Has the ‘impact agenda’ helped agronomy – or harmed it?

    Published on 27 April 2015


    Every agronomist or agricultural research institute with an interest in international development, and who has applied for a research grant in the last 15 years, will have had to develop and justify a theory of change, and identify outcomes, anticipated impacts, measurable indicators and impact pathways.

    These tasks have become an obligatory part of agricultural research design and planning. The resulting theories, claims, indicators and pathways are supposed to be useful in assessing, monitoring, reporting on and evaluating the research investment.

    In this context there are three questions that deserve attention:

    • First, where did research funders’ interest in theory of change and impact pathways come from?
    • Second, what is the evidence that the focus on them has improved the quality (or relevance, productivity, effectiveness, or any other dimension) of agronomic research?
    • And third, what unanticipated consequences might this focus be having on the culture of publically funded, development-oriented agronomic research?

    Each of these questions warrants careful consideration, and would provide starting points for fascinating PhD research. While we wait for these PhDs candidates to come forward, some initial thoughts and speculation will have to suffice.