Bar chart - Intensity ratios by income group and region, 1981, 1990, 2000, and 2008

Absolute spending levels are only one metric for comparing national and regional spending levels. Another way of evaluating a country’s agricultural R&D commitment and of placing it within an international context is to calculate its agricultural research spending relative to its agricultural gross domestic product (GDP). This measure, commonly known as the research “intensity ratio,” has remained fairly constant on average for low- and middle-income countries as a group and for individual developing regions, indicating that growth in R&D spending in developing countries roughly tracked growth in agricultural GDP. In contrast, the average intensity ratio for high-income countries has increased steadily since the early 1980s, reflecting a number of factors that are outlined in the global assessment.

Table - Comparing compounded annual growth rates, 2000–2008Intensity ratios are useful, but they should neither be used as a sole measure of public agricultural R&D spending levels across countries nor as a target to be reached. Their interpretation requires consideration of a complex and fluctuating set of factors, including investment growth, human resource capacity, and infrastructure. Importantly, intensity ratios don’t always reflect increased agricultural R&D spending; they can also reflect declining or stagnating agricultural output, as evidenced by the rapidly rising average intensity ratio of high-income countries in recent years.

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