The Relation between Research Priorities and Societal Demands: The Case of Rice

Tommaso Ciarli, Ismael Ràfols
To which extent is scientific research related to societal needs? To answer this crucial question systematically we need to define measures of research priorities and societal needs that are comparable. We focus on rice research and technology between 1983 and 2012. We combine quantitative methods that allow to explore the relation between “revealed” research priorities and
“revealed” societal demands, respectively measured with research output (publications) and national national accounts of rice use and rice related needs of farmers and consumers. We employ new bibliometric data, methods, and indicators to identify countries’ main topics of rice research (priorities) from
publications. We then estimate for a panel of countries the relation between the revealed research priorities and the revealed demands. We find that, across countries and time, societal demands explain to a limited extent a country’s research trajectory. Some research priorities are aligned with societal demands in
an obvious way, corroborating our analysis. However, we find a relevant number of misalignments between the focus of rice research and revealed demands, crucially on human consumption and nutrition. We discuss some implications for research policy and the stability of research frameworks.