Who benefits from ex ante societal impact evaluation in the European funding arena? A cross-country comparison of societal impact capacity in the social sciences and humanities

Stefan P. L. de Jong*, Reetta Muhonen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Increasingly, research funders include societal impact as a criterion in evaluation procedures. The European Commission is no exception to this trend. Societal impact determines one-third of a project's success in receiving funding from the Societal Challenges in Horizon 2020 (H2020). Yet, there are large differences in terms of science and technology performance between countries that participate in the programme. In this article, we (1) compare societal impact practices in the social sciences and humanities in high-performing countries (HPCs) and low-performing countries (LPCs) to the evaluation of societal impact in funding procedures at the European level and (2) reflect upon consequences for the competition for research funding in the European funding arena. To this end, we introduce the concept of 'societal impact capacity' as well as a framework to analyse it. The analysis of 60 case studies from 16 countries across Europe shows that (1) researchers from HPCs have a higher impact capacity than those from LPCs and (2) researchers from HPCs report more details about impact than those from LPCs. This suggests that researchers from HPCs are better equipped to score well on the impact criterion when applying for funding than researchers from LPCs. We conclude with policy recommendations for the organization and evaluation of societal impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-33
JournalResearch Evaluation
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Keywords

  • societal impact
  • productive interactions
  • evaluation
  • social sciences and humanities
  • European framework programme
  • KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER
  • PRODUCTIVE INTERACTIONS
  • TRANSDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH
  • COMMERCIALIZATION
  • ENGAGEMENT
  • EXCHANGE
  • POLICY
  • UK
  • UNIVERSITIES
  • RESEARCHERS

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