Scientific and Social Impacts, Two Sides of the Same Excellence Coin for Individual Researcher Assessment?

Pablo D’Este, Irene Ramos-Vielba, Richard Woolley
Thursday, 26 May 2016 - 12:00

Excellence policies in science are becoming increasingly widespread for research quality assessment in a context of growing public accountability of broader social, cultural, environmental or economic returns to society of publicly funded research. Existing approaches to research quality assessment, however, insufficiently acknowledge the heterogeneity of individual scientists’ profiles which make scientific research conducive to major contributions for society through many different pathways, involving a wide diversity of actors, outputs, and long-term impacts. In this paper we first critically discuss the concept of excellence in research assessment drawing  on the experience of the Research Excellence Framework  (REF) in the UK. Rather than a clear focus on denoting what is excellent in scientific research, we find that the REF enables the identification of diverse contributions to top quality research and impacts by UK departments and units. Then we propose a model for better understanding the production of research quality. Like the UK REF, our model features scientific outputs and social impacts as the two major dimensions of research quality for individual research assessment. We draw on the individual scientist as a point of reference to better understand the individual and contextual pre-conditions that generate pathways to social impact through productive interactions. The ultimate objective is to produce insights into the diversity of pathways and the complementarities between producing scientific and social impacts.


Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación
Edificio 8E, Acceso J, Planta 3ª (Salón de Actos. Cubo Rojo)
Universidad Politécnica de Valencia | Camino de Vera s/n

Short CV: 

Pablo D’Este:

Current position. Research Fellow at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), working at INGENIO, a joint Institute of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research and the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

Training. Pablo D’Este has a Degree in Economics from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), and a Masters Degree in Applied Economics from UAB. He was awarded a PhD degree in 2003 from SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Sussex; his thesis is on firm heterogeneity in the development of technological capabilities in the Spanish pharmaceutical industry.

Work experience. Pablo D’Este was a teaching assistant in Economics at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona from 1992 to 1998. He was a Research Fellow at SPRU from 2002 to 2008, and was supported by a UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship between 2004 to 2005. In 2006, he was appointed an Advanced Institute of Management (AIM) Research Fellow at Cranfield School of Management, and held a double appointment at Cranfield School of Management and SPRU, University of Sussex, between 2006 and 2008. Since July 2008 he has been a researcher at INGENIO (CSIC-UPV).

Research interests. His research covers the following topics: industrial dynamics and innovation; dynamic capabilities and knowledge creation in firms; university-business interactions and their impact on academic and business performance; academic entrepreneurship; proximity and formation of research partnerships; and the sources of and barriers to innovation.


Irene Ramos-Vielba

Dr. Irene Ramos-Vielba studied Political Science and Sociology at the Complutense University in Madrid, where she obtained her Ph.D. in the same fields in 2003.

From April 2014 to March 2015 she worked as a researcher at the Research Institute for Work, Technology and Culture (F.A.T.K) at the University of Tübingen. Since then, she is an external collaborator, and she is still involved in the project 'Crisis, State and Labour Relations: Austerity Policy and Public Service Labour Relations'.

From April 2015 she is a Reserch Fellow at   Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Management (INGENIO) , Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) - Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV).

Areas of research: labour relations, policy evaluation, knowledge transfer processes, university-industry cooperation, innovation systems, open parliament.

Richard Woolley


Qualifications:B.Arts (Hons I) 1996, Anthropology and Sociology, University of Sydney, Australia and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD.) 2003 Sociology, University of Western Sydney, Australia.

Experience: Between 2004 and 2007 worked as a Research Associate on a series of Australian Research Council funded projects on innovation agents and research careers in the Asia-Pacific. From 2008-2011 was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre of Industry and Innovation Studies at the University of Western Sydney. During this time also completed many contract research projects for Australian government departments and university research groups. In 2011-12, was a visiting researcher, Estancias de Jóvenes Doctores Extranjeros en el Centros Españoles, a program of El Ministerio de Educación España. Project: Mobilizing Technical Knowledge & Skill in Research & Development.

Areas of Interest: Sociology of science & technology, Skills & innovation, Scientific mobility and highly skilled migration, Science & research policy, Economic sociology, scientific knowledge and consumer products, gambling industries.