The Consultative Groups on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) funds a decentralized system of International Agricultural Research Centers. To monitor the Centers, the CGIAR has instituted a system of program and management reviews. But there is some controversy concerning the proper role, cost, and impact of these reviews. In 1984 we conducted a survey of scientific and administrative staff at the Centers to elicit their perspectives about the benefits and costs of the reviews. We also canvassed the documentation prepared by the external review panels. In this paper we report some of the findings from this study and comment on what we feel is the proper role and scope for external reviews. In particular, we feel that the efficiency of the review process can be improved if external program reviews focus on strategic issues, leaving peer review functions aside. Greater integration should be sought between external reviews and the internal planning and review mechanisms of the Centers. The successes achieved by this international system of research institutes should lead to considerable confidence about both the system's research and managerial capacity, though not all Centers have achieved uniformly high rates of productivity.