Agricultural Research: Two USDA Agencies Can Enhance Safeguards against Project Duplication and Strengthen Collaborative Planning

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A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) generally focus on many of the same broad topics and rely on agency safeguards, as well as on the scientific community's professional norms, to prevent inadvertent duplication of research projects within and between the agencies. Shortcomings with certain agency safeguards, however, may increase the potential risk of project duplication within or between the two agencies. ARS and NIFA built in their own safeguards to help prevent project duplication, ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. April 12, 2013.

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Description

A letter report issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) generally focus on many of the same broad topics and rely on agency safeguards, as well as on the scientific community's professional norms, to prevent inadvertent duplication of research projects within and between the agencies. Shortcomings with certain agency safeguards, however, may increase the potential risk of project duplication within or between the two agencies. ARS and NIFA built in their own safeguards to help prevent project duplication, such as (1) panels of independent external scientists who review proposed projects and (2) agency requirements for staff to ensure that proposed work is relevant, including checking the Current Research Information System (CRIS)--USDA's primary system containing project-level information on its ongoing and completed research projects--for potentially duplicative research projects in both agencies. The agencies also rely on professional norms to safeguard against duplication, such as the peer review process used by scientific journals to limit the publication of unnecessarily duplicative research. Indeed, agency officials and stakeholders could not provide recent examples of duplication within or between the two agencies, and GAO's review of 20 randomly selected research projects did not identify duplicative projects. Nevertheless, GAO identified a few shortcomings that somewhat limit the utility of certain agency safeguards. First, information in CRIS about ARS projects was typically at least 6 months out-of-date when uploaded, which undermines CRIS's utility as a safeguard. ARS officials said that the agency now expects staff to provide ARS project information on a quarterly basis, but ARS has not issued guidance about this expectation. Second, NIFA directs staff to conduct a CRIS duplication check for projects that accounted for about two-thirds of the funding it awarded for competitive grants; as a result, about one-third of its competitive grants are not subject to this safeguard against duplication. NIFA recently convened a task force to study, among other issues, whether the directive to check CRIS should be extended to all competitive grants."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • April 12, 2013

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Agricultural Research: Two USDA Agencies Can Enhance Safeguards against Project Duplication and Strengthen Collaborative Planning, report, April 12, 2013; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc301788/: accessed September 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.