Leveraging the societal impact of research
We believe that research has the responsibility to contribute to addressing and resolving complex societal challenges. As such, research should have an effect on life beyond academia: it should spark benefits to economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment and society’s quality of life. This change is complex, evolves over time and takes different paths depending on disciplines, sectors and time lines. Benefits can be instrumental (e.g. influencing the development of a policy or practice or changing behavior), conceptual (e.g. contributing to a new awareness or understanding) and of capacity building nature (e.g. developing skills).
To unfold societal impact, the role of formal and informal relationships with diverse societal stakeholders is crucial: research itself does not create impact. Only when players outside the academic realm, such as governmental agencies, companies or civil society organizations, pick up scientific knowledge and apply it to practice, it creates value for society. Therefore, Open Innovation in Science (OIS) - involving societal actors early on, cooperating with citizens and stakeholders outside research and co-producing research – becomes an important aspect of impact. OIS practices enable an orientation of research towards true societal needs and increase the partners’ readiness to take up findings.
We want to facilitate and support research entities in systematically and strategically leveraging the societal impact of their research activities. Together, we develop and apply tools that support strategic impact planning and enable continuous impact reflection, steering and assessment. Our focus is on supporting research groups who apply OIS methods in their research and who work openly by involving and engaging relevant stakeholders in their research.
Open, collaborative and participative practices trigger complex change processes that lead to societal impact. Together with a diverse set of stakeholders, we set out to make these different pathways to impact visible, explicit and tangible. The co-creatively developed OIS Impact Model shows how Open Innovation in Science (OIS) initiatives for involvement and engagement should be designed and what effects they could have on personal awareness and competencies, behavior and life circumstances of all those involved.
The change elements of the OIS Impact Model display concrete definitions and stakeholders that are affected by each element. They are filled with examples on how the different change elements can be assessed. The model can be used as a planning tool: research project teams can identify the key change elements they aspire to influence with their OIS initiative and set up appropriate assessment mechanisms throughout and at the end of the research project.
The OIS Impact Reflection Instruments is a toolkit that can be used to collect feedback on the effects of involvement and engagement initiatives in research projects. The toolkit consists of a set of different practical tools that can be used at different times along the research project to plan and evaluate the project's societal impact through both quantitative and qualitative methods. The toolkit includes detailed guidelines, templates for questionnaires and interviews and more. Together, they provide a comprehensive picture whether and in how far the impact elements of the "OIS Impact Model" (see above) were achieved in an open, collaborative and participative project.
The OIS Impact Reflection Instruments do not claim to be complete, but provide a comprehensive foundation that can be easily and flexibly adapted to the project’s needs, complement existing instruments or provide a basis for individual approaches.
Are you interested in applying (some of) the OIS Impact Reflection Instruments in your context? We are happy to support you to adapt them to your specific needs!
Did you implement (one of) the OIS Impact Reflection Instruments in your context? What worked well? What is unclear? What can be improved? To continuously update, improve and develop the instruments, please share your implementation experience with us!
A limited set of metrics does not do justice to the multidimensional character of impact. Instead, a comprehensive approach is required to demonstrate the complex pathways to impact. The Impact and Engagement Study provides a structure to describe impact narratively. By following reflection questions, research project teams can think about the pathways, processes and methods of their research project that led to societal impact. The final case study can then be used as a basis for future learning.
Feel free to apply and use these tools to design and attend to the impact strategy of your research project. If you have any further questions about the tools, are willing to share your experience or offer feedback, we look forward to hearing from you!