No. 6 · December 2006

Research proposals

Many applications from large consortia

Evaluation of proposals

How are proposals selected for funding?

Notes & correspondences

On current events and activities

EU research

News from EU research activities

Around Europe

An overview of current topics in partner countries


Around Europe

Swedish research on organic farming evaluated:

High quality but lacking in knowledge transfer

The Swedish research on organic farming during the years 1997–2004 has been evaluated from both scientific and utility viewpoints in two parallel processes. A large part of the projects was pointed out as of high international scientific quality standard but in many cases, the publication activity was far too low. The relevance for farming and advisory service was high, but the knowledge transfer has been weak from many of the evaluated projects.

All together 74 projects that have been financed by the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas), the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Swedish Farmers’ Association for Agricultural Research were included in the scientific evaluation. The total budget for those projects was 201 million SEK, of which 138,8 millions came from those three financiers. In the evaluation of relevance and utility also projects within the research programme “Ekoforsk” at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences was appraised.

Variation in quality

The scientific quality of the projects varied a lot. Almost half of them were of very high standard. On the other hand, 28 % of the projects showed evident weaknesses, in most cases because of low publication outcome.

The differences between different topic areas were in general smaller than the differences within topics, but the research in the socio-economic aspects of organic farming was somewhat weaker than the other areas.

The projects scored very highly for their importance for organic agriculture, although some of the projects financed early in the period of review would have been strengthened if they had been conducted more tightly within the framework of organic farming. Some of these projects paid too little attention to the particular features and problems of organic farming. The relevance seemed to be higher in more recent projects.

There were many good examples of national and international cooperation, but the scientific evaluators would have liked to see even more of this. The quality was in general higher in large projects.

Earmarked funding recommended

Continued earmarked funding was recommended by the scientific evaluators. They also recommended that the research should be carried out within the context of organic farming rather than under the more general umbrella of sustainable agriculture systems. For future research programmes they recommended to pay particular attention to the following aspects:

  1. Research on marketing, production and resource economic questions, as well as policy and social issues relating to organic production
  2. Integrated research on systems of production considering production, economics and the environment
  3. Component research on some of the key processes underpinning efficient organic farming

Plan for dissemination

The evaluators of relevance and utility found that most of the projects corresponded well to the objectives of the funding bodies. Also in this evaluation the relevance for organic farming was appraised as high, especially in cases where practitioners had been part of the designing of the projects. A few projects were criticized for not focusing enough on the specific questions of organic farming.

When it comes to the dissemination of research to farming and advisory service, the evaluators delivered strong criticism. As a consequence of the weak knowledge transfer, the contribution from the research programmes to the capacity building in the advisory service was not sufficient.

The financiers are, among other things, recommended to ask for a plan for dissemination in the research grants applications and also follow ups in the final reports.

The evaluation reports can be ordered from