USDA's Current Research Information System for Food and Agricultural Research

Food and agricultural research benefits from an inventory system called the Current Research Information System (CRIS). CRIS is the USDA documentation and reporting system for publicly supported agricultural, food and nutrition, and forestry research in the United States. It was initiated in 1966 and designed to assist persons who carry out joint research program planning, evaluation, and coordination. Research conducted by USDA, state agricultural experiment stations, forestry schools, 1890 colleges, colleges of veterinary medicine, and other institutions is included.

CRIS codifies research in several different ways. One way is by the commodity or resource that is the focus of the research—for example, soil and land, wheat, or farmer cooperatives. A second classification is research goal. Nine general goals are available, such as to "protect forests, crops and livestock from insects, diseases, and pests," "produce an adequate supply of farm and forest products at decreasing real production costs," and "protect consumer health and improve nutrition and well-being of the American people." Each general goal encompasses as many as a dozen subgoals. A third classification is research program group. There are eight groups, including natural resources; forest resources; crops; animals; people, communities and institutions; competition, trade, adjustment, price and income policy; general resource or technology; and food science and human nutrition. Researchers are also asked to report their funding sources, the area of science, the percentages of the research that are basic, applied, and developmental, and the staff effort devoted to the project.

Despite the comprehensiveness of the CRIS system, some users have found it difficult to determine how many resources are devoted to specific goals, such as reducing pesticide use or exposure. Because of the general nature of the categories, it is difficult to detect shifts in research emphasis. Also, researchers do not report anticipated impacts or specific beneficiaries. CRIS should be maintained because it is a consistent, historical record of experiment station research. Improvements should enhance the inventory's usefulness for assessing new directions for publicly funded research investments and research contributions to public policy goals.

SOURCE: US. Department of Agriculture. 1995. Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Inventory of Agricultural Research Fiscal Year 1994, August 1995.

of research projects—experiment stations and other cooperating institutions committed 4.7 percent of their research expenditures to "food science and human nutrition" and 3.8 percent to research on "people, communities, and institutions" (US. Department of Agriculture, 1995). The principal focuses of agricultural research continue to be crops, animals, and forest resources, although the current research reporting system, because of its design, makes it difficult to accurately assess the contributions of these research categories to specific public issues and particular constituencies.

Several national and regional planning bodies and the US. Congress play important roles in identifying priorities for food and agricultural system research and education (Table 2-1). For example, the Joint Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences (Joint



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