On Thursday 15th of February 2018 the Vrije Universiteit University Library hosted a successful on the excellence and societal impact of research.
The key message of all presentations could be summed up in the following way. As a research community we would like to showcase the relevance of our research to society, since this is the main funder of scientific research. It is important to be in touch with society: to keep explaining why research is important work, and not just an opinion.
Researchers should make an effort to explain: the possibilities with a scientific breakthrough; the direct and indirect benefits of their research (on the short or extreme long term), what knowledge do we transfer to society, what value-influences do academics have on society . We acknowledge that it is easier to show the contribution of applied research to societal challenges than that of the fundamental research. Nevertheless research staff and support staff should work together to find smarter solutions and smarter indicators to demonstrate to society the impact and relevance of research. This should not lead to an extra administrative workload.
Below you can find a link to an overview of the speakers, their slides and recorded audio. [Photo’s thanks to @RonAardening, @KantersEdwin, @Ecobibl and @maurice_ via Twitter #impactVU.]
“We would like to thank the speakers for providing us with new insights and opinions. And we want to thank the audience for attending. We can proudly say that almost fifty people attended from PhD’s to deans, and policy makers to faculty administrators. Not only VU researchers and staff attended, but also colleagues from the universities of Groningen, Maastricht, Amsterdam, VUmc and AMC. This shows that societal impact and the way we value our researchers is seen as an important issue in the academic world.” By Maurice Vanderfeesten.
Registering for trainings
As a follow up on this seminar you are invited to register for our training sessions in March or April in which you will learn how to work with tools to measure societal attention and research excellence. http://bit.ly/impactVUtraining (3 courses per theme; courses are non-consecutive, so you can choose 1 course per theme; there are two themes, one on societal attention, the other on research excellence.
Our rector magnificus Vinod Subramaniam opened the seminar. His key message was that when we want to demonstrate the societal relevance of our research ‘the narrative comes first, the metrics are supporting’. The standard evaluation protocol (SEP) is a framework that already is facilitating a multi-dimensional view on valuing science. A small number of departments and the library explore these multiple dimensions.
Find his Slides here (No audio)
Peter is professor in the dynamics and organisation of science. He argues we should not measure research excellence and impact, but the conditions in which excellent research can flourish. He explained why we measure research performance, the different dimensions it consists of, how they influence excellence, and the toolkit of indicators for measuring the conditions of excellence and impact.
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Pieter is professor in Environmental Economics. In his talk he explained the importance of researchers cooperating with commercial parties to make a better society, and of researchers explaining to society the importance of that collaboration. He argued that if we want to demonstrate the University’s contribution to society the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a good framework. The SDG’s are well known and considered important and therefore it is useful to make visible to society how the University and its faculties contribute to reaching the goals. Making this visible may also help to get funding, and increase on- and off-campus collaboration.
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Edwin is a senior advisor at the grant office.
In his talk he explains why the general public invest in science, and how to keep them interested in investing in science. He explores how funders also struggle with that question and how funding mechanisms are redefining themselves.
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Marieke’s research areas are in international criminal law, human rights law, use of force and aggression. Additionally she is Senior Counsel at the Public International Law & Policy Group (PILPG) and Co-Director of PILPG’s Netherlands Office. Because of her latter role, she is also a very public figure, constantly interacting with society, and enriching her research area. She argues that researchers are hard working people who are contributing to society on a daily basis, but don’t have the time to administer each public activity of each day. There has to be a smart solution for this. She pleas for the research service organisations to work with the researchers to tackle this.
Jacqueline is director of the Athena Institute, where they design interfaces between science and society, to improve the health and well-being in a sustainable and equitable way. She argues that, in order to improve the science&society relationship, academics have to 1. Improve their communication by explaining better on the output side and listening better on the input side. And 2. Collaborate better. Numbers don’t tell the whole story. The qualitative indicators are much more insightful to measure societal impact: e.g. Due to interventions of Athena institute’s research, historically autonomous groups of gynaecologists and midwifes now work closer together (= societal impact), This has lead to a significant reduction of the rate of preventable adverse perinatal outcomes (= societal impact) and had improved client satisfaction (= societal impact).
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Joeri is head of Research Support at the library. He explained about the importance of PURE as a solid foundation for measuring research excellence and societal impact. On the roadmap are activities to optimize and automate data entry and validation. This should increase the data quality and the satisfaction of the researcher.
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Maurice is Innovation Manager for Research Services at the library. He explains about how policies shaped the strategic plan of the library, with a program on open science and academic value. This program gave room to experiment with Scival and Altmetric to find out the usefulness of measuring research excellence and societal attention. In the coming months the library offers training sessions in the coming months for research staff and research support staff to get familiar with the tooling. We do this, in order to come to an improved evaluation for continuation of the licenses in 2019 and beyond. http://bit.ly/impactVUtraining
[listen to Maurice’s talk + slideshow] (automatic next slide)