These Guidelines are neither a handbook on evaluation, nor a manual on how to evaluate, but a guide for the development, adaptation, or assessment of evaluation methods. They are a reference and a guide of good practice about building a specific guide for evaluating a given situation.
This page's content, needless to remind, is aimed at the authors of a specific guide: in the present case a guide for evaluating research projects. The specific guide's authors will pick from this material what is relevant for their needs and situation.
Objectives of evaluating research projects
The two most common situations faced by evaluators of development research projects are ex ante evaluations and ex post evaluations. In a few cases an intermediate evaluation may be performed, also sometimes called a "mid-term" evaluation. The formulation of the objectives in the specific guide will obviously depend on the situation, on the needs of the stakeholders, but also on the researcher's environment and on ethical considerations.
Ex ante evaluation refers to the evaluation of a project proposal, for example for deciding whether or not to finance it, or to provide scientific support.
Ex post evaluation is conducted after a research is completed, again for a variety of reasons such as deciding to publish or to apply the results, to grant an award or a fellowship to the author(s), or to build a new research along a similar line.
An intermediate evaluation is aimed basically at helping to decide to go on, or to reorient the course of the research.
Such objectives are examined in detail below, in the pages on evaluation of research projects ex ante and on evaluation of projects ex post. A final section deals briefly with intermediate evaluation.
Importance of project evaluation
Evaluating research projects is a fundamental dimension in the evaluation of development research, for basically two reasons:
- many of our evaluation concepts and practices are derived from our experience with research projects,
- evaluation of projects is essential for achieving our long term goal of maintaining and improving the quality of development research - and particularly of strengthening research capacity.
Dimensions of the evaluation of development research projects
Scientific quality is a basic requirement for all scientific research projects, and the role of publications is here determinant. Such is obviously the case of ex post evaluation, but publications are also necessary in the case of ex ante situations, where the evaluator needs to trust to a certain extent the proposal's authors, and will largely take into account their past publications.
While scientific quality is a necessary dimension in each evaluation of a development research project, it is not sufficient. An equally indispensable dimension is relevance to development.
Other dimensions will be justified by the context, the evaluation's objectives, the evaluation sponsor's requirements, etc.