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Evaluating research projects ex ante


This page's content is aimed at the author(s) of a specific evaluation guide: in the present case a guide for evaluating a research proposal and, to decide on its funding.

Objectives of evaluating research ex ante

The authors of a specific guide for evaluating research projects must very explicitly and very clearly formulate the objectives of evaluation to which their guide responds. What is it that the evaluator will want to know in this specific case? What will be done with the answers?

Evaluating a research may have various purposes, and sometimes more than one for a given project. Possible objectives are listed in the annex "objectives of evaluation". In the present case of ex ante evaluation of projects, the most common objectives of evaluation can be:

  • Selecting eligible research projects for funding
  • Allocating adequate resources for new research proposals
  • Checking the relevance for development of research proposals
  • Strengthening the research capacity of a researcher, a team, an institution ... in a developing country

Also, for example:

  • Extending previous funding
  • Looking for a partnership
  • Providing scientific or institutional support
  • Making a choice between various project proposals

Formulating the questions of evaluation

The specific guide's authors will clearly formulate the questions of evaluation in order that the evaluators  will know exactly why, what for and for whom they will be conducting the evaluation of a given research project, and which information they are expected to provide.

Here are a few examples of such questions:

  • Does the project start from a relevant non-trivial question or problem, is there a comprehensive state-of-the-art analysis, and is this question/problem clearly formulated in the framework of the subject?
  • Would answering this question (or solving this problem) really be an important step forward in the development or progress of our scientific knowledge? Would it be useful for the developing world?
  • Is the proposed methodology appropriate for obtaining an answer to this question or problem?
  • Does the research group possess the necessary skills for applying this methodology? Or does the project contain an element for upgrading their skills to the required level?
  • Does the project description indicate that the research group is sufficiently acquainted with the up-to-date knowledge in this domain? Do they have broad and adequate access to the international scientific literature?

The dimensions to be considered

Evaluation of a research project is necessarily multidimensional. Hence the need to carefully choose the dimensions to be taken into consideration in each specific evaluation guide.

The basic dimensions of evaluation of a development research project ex ante are :

Other dimensions may also be considered, depending upon the sponsor, the objectives of the evaluation, and the context. Examples:

Writing up a specific guide for evaluating projects ex ante

From here on the authors will follow - flexibly, and adjusting the
pace and orientation of their work - the steps provided in the page "writing the specific guide".

  • Step 1. Preliminary stage fulfilled
  • Step 2. Questions of evaluation, dimensions, criteria
  • Step 3. Select procedures
  • Step 4. Conditions of evaluation
  • Step 5. Actual drafting of the specific guide

Caution: such steps are the various stages of production of an acceptable and useful specific guide. They are not the steps to be followed by the evaluators when they conduct their evaluation.