Putting in more than you take out" Towards evaluating research based on its public (not private) contributions

21ST international conference on science and technology indicators
There has been an increasing interest within research policy to measure the impact that research had in society, but also among academics to understand how research creates impacts beyond the traditional measures of patent licenses and spin-off creation. In these debates, there is often an emergent gap between research impact conceptualisations of ideas creating capacity and change in society, and the reality that it is very hard to measure the flow of ideas, but rather easy to measure transactions linked with those flows. In this paper we are concerned with the indicator periphery that emerges as a consequence of the impacts of some kinds of research better fitting to these underlying transactions than others. A range of lacunae emerge in indicators where the impacts of particular fields are badly captured by transactional measures – e.g. in social science and humanities (SSH) disciplines. This study addresses “how can we typologise the non-transactional ways in which publically funded research creates public benefits?” We start from a sociological approach to consider academic contribution to societal changes as the rate of inflow of usable knowledge into a reservoir (i.e. latent potential knowledge accumulated to later be exploited) dependent on the extent to which academic
knowledge is cognate with potential social users. We draw on the openness framework to consider the five micro-practices by which scientists make research cognate with potential users, and we seek to categorise these micro-practices according to the different kinds of situated social learning practices they embody to create specific knowledge. To do so, we draw on twelve cases of study of Spanish SSH research groups (within the Siampi project) to develop a detailed typology of the kinds of micro-practices associated with openness as the basis for a new perspective for indicators of research impact that goes beyond the traditional transactional
Paul Benneworth, Julia Olmos-Peñuela, Elena Castro-Martínez