Indicators, Measurement and the Perfomance of Quality Assurance: “Third-Mission” Activities in the Social Sciences and Humanities (IMPaQT)

Start of the project: 01-Jun-2019 - End of the project: 31-May-2022

In contemporary societies it has come to be expected of universities and research institutes that they not only do research and teaching, but also be partners and knowledge resources for the shaping of societal change. This function is tied to global processes of transformation under such bywords such as digitalisation, climate change and migration, and a special responsibility is thereby assigned to humanities and social sciences. Political demand for independent scientific knowledge that is relevant to action can be seen in national and supranational science and innovation strategies such as the British Research Excellence Framework and the European Responsible Research and Innovation initiative, which explicitly demand from science concrete - and possibly measurable - evidence of "impact".

For a multitude of reasons, the social impact of the social and human sciences is, however, hard to measure. Unlike, for example, patents in engineering and clinical medicine, knowledge transfers from social science and humanities are heterogeneous and often intangible; they typically come about through expertise rather than directly from the results of specific, discrete research projects. What is more, social sciences and humanities are, by their very nature, caught up in defining and describing the objects- such as society, upon which they are meant to have an impact. It is also the case that knowledge transfer activity is only to a limited extent reflected in traditional systems of academic reputation and evaluation.

The research project IMPaQT (Indikatorik, Messung und Performanz der Qualitätssicherung: Third-Mission-Tätigkeiten in den Gesellschaftswissenschaften - Indicators, Measurement and the Perfomance of Quality Assurance: “Third-Mission” Activities in the Social Sciences and Humanities) is being carried out in collaboration with the Alexander von Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft. The project's aim is to classify the diverse activities in social science and humanities that might be considered "social impact", and in the process to identify novel and overlooked forms of knowledge transfer. Among the project's central questions are: what scientific quality criteria apply to processes knowledge transfer? What expectations about the effects of transfer do actors outside the scientific system have? Which of these expectations and criteria are measurable, and which are not? A sub-goal of the research project is to develop indicators for the processes and effects of knowledge transfer and to assess these for their adequacy and measurability in evaluation procedures.

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Werkstattgespräch zu Social Impact.

Fecher, B., & Fenton, A. (2019, August).
Werkstattgespräch zu Social Impact. Vorstand, Deutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Berlin.

Lead Researcher

Alex Fenton
Alex Fenton Lead Researcher +49 30 2064177-23