representation in Congress, and competition among various congressional committees to control funds.
Participants suggested numerous changes for the NRI. The first was more funding. The second was the development of a consistent and well-understood priority-setting process. The third was coordination of NRI research priorities with those of USDA and other federal agencies. Participants found the idea of setting up six institutes covering the six NRI divisions appealing. The institutes would be problem- and issue-driven rather than category-driven. Another prominent suggestion was to from an external advisory committee to help in setting priorities and relating to stakeholders; this advisory committee could reflect the reorientation of the NRI toward a problem-based priority-setting process.
References to the “Oregon Invests!” accountability system piqued interest (GAO, 1996). The “Oregon Invests!” database has proved to be a reliable source of information about the economic, social, and environmental consequences of agricultural research programs. By providing that accountability in easily and quickly accessible forms, it has helped to stimulate strong legislative support for the research enterprise of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. Participants triggered discussion about how one enumerates and evaluates research outcomes that are essential to continued support.
The testimony helped the committee to understand the quality of NRI-funded research, the importance of measuring that quality, and the need for effective priority-setting the NRI, and the need to address how NRI activities complement USDA and other federal programs. The committee heard thoughtful, feasible suggestions for change, particularly in how the NRI might relate more openly and receptively to current and future stakeholders.