Burning Questions Collection and Prioritization Program

Helping front-line persons identify and prioritize their burning questions

Download the List of
Burning Questions

How does this program operate?

  • This program runs on a two-year cycle.
  • For each cycle, the program first invites front-line persons who are knowledgeable about different aspects of this problem to submit pressing practical questions they consider of most significance and salience to their work that they don’t think have been answered satisfactorily. (If they have participated in past cycles, they can keep or edit their “old” questions or submit new ones.)
  • Each question must conform to a set of criteria (e.g. must deal with practical issues, not philosophical ideas) and include a “context statement” to explain why the question is asked, why pursuing it is important, etc.
  • The target for each cycle is about a dozen question-contributors, each submitting 1-3 questions.
  • After collecting the “burning questions”, the program then invites all question-contributors to prioritize the questions using an exercise modified from a well-established and highly regarded process for prioritizing healthcare treatment uncertainties.

Who participate in this program?

  • Individuals are invited by Tiny Beam Fund to participate.
  • Participation is entirely voluntary. No monetary compensation, grant, or gift is offered. (Tiny Beam Fund extends the warmest thanks to all those who participate!)
  • Names of potential participants /question-contributors are identified by seeking suggestions from Tiny Beam Fund’s advisors and contacts.
  • The goal is to come up with a group of individuals that are representative of all key aspects of the problem and countries concerned. So a new cycle will give priority to individuals in key areas inadequately represented in the past.

What is the significance of this program?

  • The burning questions as well as the thinking articulated in the context statement that accompanies each question play a major role in and form the basis of the work in all the other programs in the initiative.

What is the inaugural list of “burning questions”?

  • 44 persons were invited to submit their burning questions. The names of these persons were provided by a group of ten experts who were interviewed in a feasibility study before launching the initiative.
  • 24 persons responded to the invitation and provided a total of 65 burning questions.
  • Roles of contributors:
    10 Practitioners. 3 Researchers /practitioners. 2 Non-academic researchers. 5 Academic researchers. 4 Funders.
  • Areas of expertise /interest (one person can have multiple areas):
    Environmental; food and agriculture: 13. Animal welfare: 15.  Public health: 1. Farm workers, operators, owners: 3. Agribusiness: 2. Local communities: 4.
Results of prioritization exercise
  • The results were analyzed in two ways:
    1. Citation frequency: simply the number of times that a question featured in the top 20 of any expert. This is unweighted, i.e., does not take account of the how that participant ranked the question.
    2. Weighted score: if a question was rated Number 1, it scored 20 points; if it was rated Number 2, it scored 19 points; if a question was rated Number 3, it scored 18 points, and so on.
  • The results were very similar in both methods: the same question came top; and of the seven questions which rank top in the weighted analysis, six are in the top seven of the unweighted analysis, and vice versa. There are therefore eight top questions.
The question that emerged as the #1 top priority:
  • In major livestock-producing countries in the world, what are the government policies and financial support that favor global meat processors and retailers’ production and consolidation? What is the track record of civil society’s efforts to oppose such official measures?