The Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI) was established in 2006 by the WA State Government as an independent research organisation tasked with improving the coordination of marine research in WA, promoting collaboration between stakeholders and guiding research priorities. Synergies was engaged by WAMSI to assess the effectiveness and impact of its research program, its strategic investments and its operating model.
WAMSI has a focus on delivering strategic research to inform public decision-making within government. It is part-funded by State Government, with around 10 partner organisations (primarily universities and government agencies) contributing to research costs through cash and in-kind. In order to ensure the continutity of funding, WAMSI must demonstrate to the State Government and its partners that it is fulfilling the objectives of its charter and is generating beneficial impacts for the State.
To fulfill the objectives of the brief, Synergies reviewed the evidence of impacts to date using a selection of completed projects, as well as making a forward-looking assessment of the expected, future impacts that are likely to arise from WAMSI’s current research program.
We identified a number of key evaluation questions, as follows:
what gap does WAMSI fill as a research organisation (that is, the organisation’s ‘reason for being’);
how effective is it at promoting collaboration and improving efficiencies in the way marine research is done in WA?;
how effective is it at identifying strategic marine research projects?;
has funding uncertainty impeded WAMSI’s level of impact and influence?;
what is the impact and value of WAMSI’s research?;
what value would be foregone if WAMSI was discontinued?; and
is WAMSI’s current monitoring, evaluation and reporting (MER) framework adequate for informing future impact assessment and reporting outcomes to stakeholders?
The evaluation had both a quantitative and qualitative components. For the quantitative assessment we selected four projects for cost benefit analysis. We evaluated the program logic for each project and undertook benefit mapping, which sought to trace the creation of economic impacts back to inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes.
Synergies reviewed project documentation and conducted interviews with project managers, research providers, and end users of project outputs.
We found that WAMSI is delivering tangible benefits for the State and a solid return on investment. Across the four projects examined, benefit-cost ratios ranged between 2.7 and 7.3.
While some areas were identified for operational improvement, overall the organisation was assessed as being an asset to the State. WAMSI provides a coordinating function that would be difficult to replace if it were disbanded. In the absence of the Institution, there would likely be a reversion towards fragmented marine research in Western Australia, resulting in greater duplication of effort and less capability to take a strategic approach to developing solutions.
What our Client said
Thank you both very much for your dedication and professionalism on this project. I’m incredibly grateful for the documents that you’ve put together and I’m certain they will go a long way in demonstrating the value for keeping WAMSI around for a long time into the future.”