Since the 1990s, the scope of research evaluations becomes broader as the societal products (outputs), societal use (societal references), and societal benefits (changes in society) of research come into scope. Society can reap the benefits of successful research studies only if the results are converted into marketable and consumable products (e.g., medicaments, diagnostic tools, machines, and devices) or services. A series of different names have been introduced which refer to the societal impact of research: third stream activities, societal benefits, societal quality, usefulness, public values, knowledge transfer, and societal relevance. What most of these names are concerned with is the assessment of social, cultural, environmental, and economic returns (impact and effects) from results (research output) or products (research outcome) of publicly funded research. This review intends to present existing research on and practices employed in the assessment of societal impact in the form of a literature survey. The objective is for this review to serve as a basis for the development of robust and reliable methods of societal impact measurement.
A series of different names have been introduced which refer to the societal impact of research:
1: third stream activities (Molas-Gallart, Salter, Patel, Scott, & Duran, 2002),
2: societal benefits, societal quality (van der Meulen & Rip, 2000),
3: usefulness (Department of Education Science and Training, 2005),
4: public values (Bozeman & Sarewitz, 2011),
5: knowledge transfer (van Vught & Ziegele, 2011), and
6: societal relevance (Evaluating Research in Context [ERiC], 2010; Holbrook & Frodeman, 2011).
What most of these names are concerned with is the assessment of
(c) environmental, and
(d) economic returns (impact and effects) from results (research output) or products (research outcome) of publicly funded research (Donovan, 2011; European Commission, 2010; Lähteenmäki-Smith, Hyytinen, Kutinlahti, & Konttinen, 2006).
“…In this context, (a) social benefits indicate the contribution of the research to the social capital of a nation (e.g., stimulating new approaches to social issues, informed public debate, and improved policymaking). (These and the following examples are taken from Donovan, 2008). Since social benefits are hardly distinguishable from the superior term of societal benefits, in much literature the term “social impact” is used instead of “societal impact.” (b) Cultural benefits are additions to the cultural capital of a nation (e.g., understanding how we relate to other societies and cultures, contributing to cultural preservation and enrichment). (c) Environmental benefits add to the natural capital of a nation (e.g., reduced waste and pollution, uptake of recycling techniques). (d) Economic benefits denote contributions to the economic capital of a nation (e.g., enhancing the skills base, improved productivity).”
“…If many different indicators are used in the societal impact evaluation, similar methodological requirements as with the citation counts have to be taken into account with each indicator. Additional indicators (studies have identified up to 60 different indicators; discussed earlier) also mean that additional aspects have to be taken into account in the collection of the data. Since studies have shown that scientific and societal impact barely correlate with one another (discussed earlier), few synergy effects will be produced, and both evaluations have to be conducted alongside one another. Approaches are needed which combine the scientific and societal impact assessment in a single applicable framework.”
ADVANCES IN INFORMATION SCIENCE
What is societal impact of research and how can it be assessed? a literature surveyLutz BornmannJournal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology
Volume 64, Issue 2, pages 217–233, February 2013
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