News, insights & summaries about societal impact of science
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From the Network

Dear members, dear readers,

We are looking back at a successful launch of the Network for the Assessment & Evaluation of the Societal Impact of Science (AESIS) a few months ago; we have seen a steady growth of membership and much enthusiasm about the central topic of the Network: how to measure, assess and demonstrate the impact of scientific research on society at large. With more than 70 members from 15 countries and a continued annual conference, we have established that the discussion on whether and how to demonstrate is a relevant issue in many countries.

In this first network news letter, we would like to share some of the insights from past events, as well as news submitted by some of our members. If you would like to contribute for future news letters, please send us a message to and we will consider your suggestion for the next publication.

On 9-11 December, the AESIS Network will organise its first course on integrating the societal impact in a research strategy, with expert trainers such as David Sweeney, Koenraad Debackere, Barend van der Meulen, Maria Nedeva and Graeme Reid. The course is aimed at research programme designers and science funding experts. Please note that while there are still places available, participation is limited to a maximum of 25 people.

I hope that we will be able to welcome some of you in London, and otherwise at our next events.

With warm regards,
Frank Zwetsloot
Director of the AESIS Network


News from the USA

All research proposals submitted to the US National Science Foundation (NSF) are evaluated on their intellectual merit (scientific quality) and their broader impacts (benefits to society). Each year, NSF receives more proposals than it can fund, and the current funding rate across directorates is about 25 percent. This means review panels are often tasked with making funding decisions between proposals where the intellectual merit is equivalent. How do they choose which proposals to fund? More often than not, they use the broader impacts to determine who will receive funding.

In Fall 2014, the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI) was launched.  Funded by a NSF Research Coordination Network (RCN) grant, NABI’s goal is to create a community of practice that fosters the development of sustainable and scalable institutional capacity and engagement in broader impacts activity. As of September 2015, there are more than 350 NABI members. The next Broader Impacts Summit will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania April 20-22, 2016
(Dr. Susan Renoe, Director of Broader Impacts Network & Member of the AESIS advisory board)
Susan Renoe at IoS 2015

ISSI 2015

The proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Scientometrics and Infometrics have been published, covering some relevant publications in the field of scientometrics.

Impact from the social sciences

While the impact from the exact and medical sciences is generally accepted to be very beneficial to society, even though improvements can be made to the methods, the social sciences and humanities are often considered to have more difficulties to demonstrate their impact with hard evidence.

This is the reason that ScienceWorks is organising a dedicated nationally oriented conference on the societal impact of the social sciences and humanities (in Dutch) this December, to showcase the best practices of societal impact and to demonstrate that there is plenty of societal impact from these fields of research.

As was demonstrated by the analysis (Kings College London) from the data generated by the Research Excellence Framework (REF), there are numerous pathways to come arrive at impact and using only counting as a measure of impact will therefore generate a likely bias towards the 'hard sciences'.

If you are looking for some inspiring case studies of impactful research, the REF 2014 case study database may be a great start.


Upcoming activities suggested by our members, that may be of interest to you:

November 3-4: Impacts of agricultural research - towards an approach of societal values in Paris, France -- French National Reserach Institute for Agricultural research (INRA)

November 26-28: 11th International Conference on Webometrics, Informetrics,
and Scientometrics
(WIS) in Delhi, India -- Collnet

December 2: Societal Impact of the Social Sciences & Humanities (Conference in Dutch) in Utrecht, the Netherlands -- ScienceWorks

December 9-11: Course Integrating Societal Impact in a Research Strategy in London, UK -- AESIS Network

April 20-22, 2016: Broader Impacts Summit in Philidelphia, Pennsylvania USA -- National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI)

Impact of Science 2015

On 4 and 5 June this year, the annual conference Impact of Science was convened for the third time. Impact of Science will become the annual conference of the AESIS Network, bringing together international key players and experts in this field, to discuss the possibilities and pitfalls of measuring and demonstrating the societal impact of science.

The participants discussed that qualitative and quantitative demonstration of impact should be combined to have a more reliable and fair assessment. While we should go beyond 'story telling' on an incidental basis, numbers alone provide a systemic bias due to the limited availability. Researchers, funding agencies and policy makers in countries across the world are struggling to strike a good balance and do justice to the true impacts of research.

This year’s Impact of Science was held in Amsterdam and saw attendance from 19 different countries. It was a very exciting, interactive and inspiring 1.5 day conference, and you can find a more thorough impression of the outcomes of the day in this report with some of the conference conclusions.

We also interviewed some of the key speakers on the importance and main challenges of measuring and demonstrating the societal impact of science - which we edited into a few short videos; Please take a look!

Participants of IoS 2015

Small Advanced Economies

The group of 'Small Advanced Economies' (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand and Singapore) have focused on the importance of science for the development of a country, as explained by the Chief Science Officer of New Zealand Peter Gluckman in this essay. It is also recognised that making impact on society happen, is a two way street: it is not only about doing great research, but also requires a welcoming and open attitude from society.

What are the most effective methods for policy makers to maximise the output or impact of scientific research for a society? Another interesting read is their publication from earlier this year: "Broadening the Scope of Impact".
Copyright © 2015 AESIS Network, All rights reserved.

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