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 Biotechnology and Development Monitor Evaluated
By
Boem van Ravenswaaij and Gerda van Roozendaal
 
 
 
Keywords:  Policies/Programmes.
Correct citation: Ravenswaaij, B. van and Roozendaal, G. van (1995), "Biotechnology and Development Monitor Evaluated." Biotechnology and Development Monitor, No. 22, p. 21-22.

As many of the readers will remember, the Biotechnology and Development Monitor was evaluated in the summer of 1994. The in-depth interviews and the response to the questionnaire have provided the editorial board with new insights concerning the relevance and the future of the Monitor. As a result of the evaluation, the Monitor has decided to broaden its international scope further through the establishment of an international advisory board, a larger network of correspondents and a fellowship programme.

The objective of the evaluation was to determine ways in which the content and circulation of the Monitor could be further improved, ensuring the spread of relevant information on biotechnological developments. The 4,250 subscribers, who at that time received the journal, represent about a hundred different countries from around the world. 63 Per cent of the subscribers are located in developing countries (see table).

Points of discussion
Since the aim of the Monitor is to report on the socio­economic impact of biotechnology that is relevant to developing countries, the evaluation team viewed the possible means of internationalization of the Monitor to increase the participation of developing countries. Points of discussion included whether or not the editorial responsibility should be transferred to an international organization or an institute in a developing country; methods of co­operation with other institutions; broadening the international basis of the Monitor; improvement of content and appearance; involvement of readers; other language editions; the strengthening of the Monitor's infrastructure and the lessening of the financial reliance on the Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS).

Readers' survey
Before the closing date, the readers' survey had resulted in a response rate of 14 per cent. Although this rate is not high, the evaluation team concluded that the response gives a fairly representative geographical reflection of the total subscribers circulation. The survey showed that the readers can be broadly divided into two groups. One group is aware of the potential of biotechnology and the social and economic impact of its various applications, but lacks the time to scan the rapidly increasing amount of material published on different aspects of biotechnology and development. In this group, the Monitor is mainly used to read about developments outside their own specialization. The other group, mainly outside the OECD­countries, has only a limited access to material on biotechnology due to the cost of other publications. For this group the Monitor is an appreciated, inexpensive source of information. 75 Per cent of the respondents, especially those from non­OECD countries, use the Monitor at some time for teaching or writing purposes. This is a principal objective of the Monitor.
On the whole the respondents were quite satisfied with the information the Monitor provides. Especially the relevance of the subjects covered and the reliability of the information was praised. Nevertheless, criticism was voiced on the varying analytical content and on the topicality of the articles. About 25 per cent of the respondents indicated that they would like more articles than present on 'technology in the South', while 40 per cent of the respondents (50 per cent of the non­OECD respondents) asked for more articles on 'technology in the North'. Since the respondents from non­OECD countries are the main focus of the Monitor, the editors have decided to start a series of publications on Japan, the USA and Europe.
 
Distribution of the Monitor
 
Continent
Number of copies
 %
Africa 
754
18
Asia 1,313 31
Latin America  611 14
Europe 1,231 29
North America/Australia/New Zealand 341 8
 

In­depth interviews
The in­depth interviews at several (international) organizations revealed that the Monitor is highly valued, but also that some regretted the emphasis on agriculture. On the other hand it was admitted that this bias was justified in view of the needs of developing countries. Furthermore, more case studies of the nature of 'success and failure stories' were requested. The closed­club network of contributors was criticized, and more involvement of scientists from a wider range of developing countries was preferred.

Internationalization
The broadening of the basis of the Monitor, especially through recruiting contributors from developing countries, is envisaged as an important goal. However, the information gathered during the study indicated that the publishing of the Monitor should continue at the current location. In the present setting the editors enjoy sufficient freedom. They can benefit from research taking place at the same institute and have easy access to a wide range of sources of information. In order to facilitate the internationalization, the following has been decided:

In order to control the expenses involved with this fellowship, co­operation will first be sought with eligible candidates who have come to the Netherlands on a short­term basis to attend international courses.
 
Facts about the evaluation

The evaluation of the Biotechnology and Development Monitor has been conducted by a team of researchers, headed by Boem van Raavenswaaij (Socrates International Consultancies, the Netherlands), Juan Izquierdo (FAO’s Technical Cooperation Network on Plant Biotechnology) and Nagesh Kumar (United Nations University, the Netherlands), and has been commissioned by the Directorate General for International Cooperation (DGIS) of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
The evaluation team consulted representatives of various main interest groups: readers, editors, outside experts, as well as the funding agency. The evaluation consisted of three main components: (a) a readers’ survey; (b) a questionnaire sent to the three partner institutes IICA (Costa Rica), ACTS (Kenya), and RIS (India); and (c) in-depth interviews with experts from several international organizations.

Availability
To increase the geographical coverage of the Monitor, the start of a Spanish edition and the resumption of a French edition are considered desirable. However, financial assistance should be attracted to make this possible. Although some donors have been mentioned, the first steps have yet to be made.
The English version of the Monitor is fully subsidized by the Special Programme Biotechnology and Development Cooperation of DGIS, which allows free distribution. This will continue for the next three years, but after this period DGIS might change its policy, which will force the Monitor to find other donors, to commercialize (for example by introducing a system of (differentiated) subscription fees), or to stop the publication.

The editors will maintain the Monitor's international focus and independent character. The journal should become an international forum for discussion and should continue to provide its readers with the most relevant information on biotechnology developments and its possible consequences for developing countries.
Boem van Ravenswaaij (Socrates)/
Gerda van Roozendaal
 



Contributions to the Biotechnology and Development Monitor are not covered by any copyright. Exerpts may be translated or reproduced without prior permission (with exception of parts reproduced from third sources), with acknowledgement of source.

 


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