What is societal impact of research and how can it be assessed? a literature survey



Since the 1990s, the scope of research evaluations becomes broader as the societal products (outputs), societal use (societal references), and societal benefits (changes in society) of research come into scope. Society can reap the benefits of successful research studies only if the results are converted into marketable and consumable products (e.g., medicaments, diagnostic tools, machines, and devices) or services. A series of different names have been introduced which refer to the societal impact of research: third stream activities, societal benefits, societal quality, usefulness, public values, knowledge transfer, and societal relevance. What most of these names are concerned with is the assessment of social, cultural, environmental, and economic returns (impact and effects) from results (research output) or products (research outcome) of publicly funded research. This review intends to present existing research on and practices employed in the assessment of societal impact in the form of a literature survey. The objective is for this review to serve as a basis for the development of robust and reliable methods of societal impact measurement.