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In this edition: IMI, National Research Agenda, Best Practice and more!
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Usually, after the exciting whirlwind of a conference, I initially only remember a handful of separate, incoherent details of the content: ‘EU programmes are unadaptable like dinosaurs, and will therefore go extinct’, ‘We need curiosity driven research to discover the unknown unknown’, ‘Research is like backpacking, but funding requires a fully-planned holiday’, and ‘Targets for impact are bad measurements of impact’. Coincidentally, these random quotes often match my Tweets.

But thankfully less-inconsistent memories of discussions tend to come back to me after a while, and they will start to simmer. In the aftermath of the ‘Impact of EU funded research’ seminar and the ‘Impact of Science’ conference this June, the most prominent theme that was brewing in my head was the role of society. Many discussions had moved from the impact of science on society and the public, to engaging the public and the impact of the public on science. Overall the conclusion was that involving the public in science brings along various complications.

To confirm this hypothesis, I picked a typical case of a member of the public, at random, to study. Myself. The research found the following: As a member-of-public, I want to know more about every scientific field, but not so much that I would have to spend every minute keeping up. I would like for science to influence policy to make my life better, but I really don’t always want to be aware of it. I would like to see more scientific evidence displayed to the public, but mostly for others, because they clearly don’t understand anything. I want to have a say in what scientists study, but do not want to carry the responsibility for the outcomes. In conclusion, as a member-of-public, I am clearly not an easy stakeholder to deal with. But even harder to ignore. In any case, we at AESIS are excited to continue this discussion!

Enjoy the third AESIS Newsletter of 2016, and of course your summer.

Anika Duut van Goor

 
 
Anika Duut van Goor
Manager of the AESIS Network
In this edition Upcoming
BUT FIRST, PLEASE HELP US OUT!

The AESIS network aims to establish a community of a diverse group of individuals, who share a care for advancing and evaluating the societal impact of science. In order to maximise the quality and size of our outreach, we would like to call upon your help to provide us with input, ideas and support to grow and strengthen our community.

We therefore kindly ask a few minutes of your time for this brief stocktaking of the landscape of our mission amongst various countries (doc & PDF). Your answers may be returned to info@aesisnet.com 
News
Socio-economic impact of Innovative Medicines Initiative projects
In May 2016, the IMI Socio-economic Impact Assessment Expert Group released its final report. The Expert Group consisted of independent experts from the fields of health economics, and research and innovation policy. The report is a new analysis of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) of the European Commission and it states that the IMI projects are generating socio-economic impacts on various fronts.

The first projects that have been launched by IMI, which are coming to an end in 2016, are making improvements in pharmaceutical R&D; leveraging funding; creating new knowledge; and making Europe an attractive place to carry out research. The IMI has played a big role in creating long-lasting collaborative networks. For many of the projects' run, the groups involved had never worked together before. The IMI has supported changes in attitude, with academics gaining insights into how the drug development process runs in industry, and pharma-companies gaining access to new tools and knowledge that influences their way of conducting research.

Together the projects have led to 546 published scientific papers, with more to follow. This in combination with many other impacts identified by the Expert Group fall into the category of improvements to the medicines R&D process. With this the report demonstrates that the IMI is delivering on the goals set out in the legislation creating IMI, of ‘significantly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the drug development process’.

Through IMI, the European Commission has invested €82.3 million in its first nine projects, covering areas such as diabetes, medicines safety, schizophrenia and depression, education and training, chronic pain, and severe asthma. On top of the €82.3 million from the European Commission, companies belonging to the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) have committed €104.8 million to the projects. A further €30.5 million was provided by other sources. Each euro invested in IMI by the European taxpayers leveraged an additional €1.64 from industry and other sources.

The press release from IMI is available here. Science Business has also produced an article on this topic.
Dutch National Research Agenda
Dutch research belongs to the international top. To further strengthen this position the Dutch government is aiming to deploy resources and energy with greater consideration for scientific strengths, societal challenges and economic opportunities. The Dutch National Research Agenda is determined by scientists together with companies, civil society organisations and interested citizens.  It contains the research questions that academic research will focus on in the coming years.

During the Impact of Science conference last month, Louise Gunning-Schepers, Chair of the Dutch National Research Agenda, elaborated on the National Research Agenda goals and workings. The Agenda is set to keep up research excellence, create synergy between disciplines and partners, and create impact. The impact can be on science, society or economic growth. What makes the Agenda in the Netherlands stand out, is the public engagement in setting the agenda through public consultation.

Private individuals and parties from academia, business and civil society submitted more than 11,000 questions in 2015. The questions were assessed and selected by five academic juries, appointed by the Knowledge Coalition (responsible for the final agenda), and coordinated by the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences (KNAW). During three conferences the relevance of the questions was discussed and the questions were assigned to Science for Science (academia), Science for Competitiveness (economy) or Science for Society. The final 140 cluster questions of the Dutch National Research Agenda are available online (Dutch).

For more information on the Dutch National Research Agenda, you can visit their website in English and Dutch.
Best Practice
Insight
Science for Society:
Elsevier Zika Virus Resource Center
At the beginning of 2016 the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a global public health emergency. Although deaths are rare, and only one-in-five people infected is thought to develop symptoms, the infection can lead to babies being born with underdeveloped brains - a condition known as microcephaly.  Currently 18 countries are now affected in The Americas (with the appearance of more severe cases in Latin America).
 
To help healthcare professionals, medical researchers and the public understand the ongoing outbreak of the Zika virus, an as part of its emergency access initiatives, Elsevier was quick to develop its Zika Virus Resource Center.
 
The resource center brings together best available published research on Zika, and making these articles open and available for free, in order to assist researchers, policy makers and health workers in understanding the effects of the outbreak and how best to respond – as well as provide access to the general public to help debunk myths and rumors. Webpages within the site have also been translated into Portuguese and Spanish. Since its launch early February, site has received more than 25.000 visits – an average of more than 200 per day.
 
Elsevier publishes about 25 percent of the world’s scientific and health content, including thousands of textbooks and journals, drug information, clinical guidelines and patient education- a panel of clinicians and professional editors regularly goes through this content and select what is the most current, and relevant information on the topic of Zika and should be made available on resource center. 
 
In addition the site features reports from Scopus and SciVal, which provide insights into global Zika research trends, and through a Zika Mendeley group, researchers working on Zika can easily find each other to collaborate in finding a vaccination. The resource center further links to available resources made available through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). (contribution: Stephane Berghmans)

Do you have an example of a best practice of impact for the next newsletter? Let us know via info@aesisnet.com
Impact, meet public engagement. Public engagement, meet impact.
At the recent Impact of Science (IoS) conference, many speakers stressed the importance of engaging the general public with science. High quality communication, it was said, is key in those cases. One of the speakers, Louise Gunning, went so far as to suggest that the high school project of her National Research Agenda may be the one aspect to generate the most long term impact. It struck me, therefore, that I – being responsible for Gunning’s high school project – was one of the very few public engagement (PE) professionals around.

I was at the conference because my world, the science communication world, is in need of a breakthrough and I am looking for that breakthrough in the IoS world. I am going to use a very broad brush here and summarize our problem very briefly: scientists are not rewarded or recognized for high quality PE efforts. As an effect of the funding and career system, the science communication they still do, or hire people to do, is being done in their own time and based on their own personal motivation. Essentially, PE efforts by scientists are, in my world, gift horses.

Unless we start rewarding and recognizing scientists for their PE efforts in a currency they value, their efforts, initiatives and cooperation will remain extracurricular and of varying quality. Again, this is not an individual problem, but a system one. The currency we need, in my opinion, is to be found in the impact and policy world: we need funders to pass formal judgment on the quality of PE proposals and projects. The judgment itself should be formulated by a peer review process performed by experts from the PE world. Whether this ‘PE rating’ should actively impact funding decisions is a second, and political question. The rating itself would already contribute to more impact by giving scientists, groups and institutions the opportunity to label themselves as good at PE.

Of course, people from the science communication world could help scientists navigate it, and help them direct their efforts into initiatives with higher societal impact. I think we – the science impact / policy people, and the science communication / public engagement people – can complement each other. I would love to explore the common ground and the possible innovation that, as we all know, can blossom when two fields of expertise meet.

- Alex Verkade -
Impact of Science
Impact of EU funded research
On June 9-10 the AESIS Network is hosted its annual Impact of Science conference. This year the conference focused primarily on governmental and institutional methods to advance the societal impact of science, and the methods needed to assess the impact sufficiently.

The conference started with lively debates and discussions on impact from the coffee at the registration. The conference was chaired by Prof. Paul Boyle, who from the start shared his views on the topics at hand and led the panel towards interesting discussions with each other and the audience. In the plenary session policy and institutional best practices were presented and debated. The participants also discussed different approaches to the assessment of the impact of science and various approaches to generating more impact be it on institutional, national or international level. This year we also dedicated a session to the impact of academic education.

The role of politicians in science agendas and social sciences & humanities in impact were the main topics of the second day of the conference. The panel discussion answered the question: to what extend can governments effectively raise the societal impact of science? Points raised for this included that science literacy of the government and society are crucial for their constructive input into raising impact, and that the engagement and interaction with the younger generation is essential to ensure the continuity for the future.

This year’s Impact of Science conference was held in Amsterdam and saw attendance from 26 different countries. It was a very exciting, interactive and inspiring conference. Photos of the conference can be found on the website.

 
The Impact of Science conference was preceded by a pre-conference seminar on the Impact of EU funded research on June 8. This seminar focused on new insights on the impact of Horizon 2020 & EIT for economies and societies.

The topics of the seminar were the topics of conversation as participants walked through the doors. The conference was chaired by Prof. Koenraad Debackere. He opened the day stating that research in Europe has much potential, and we should not be afraid to raise expectations and ambitions.

In the plenary session the ambitions of the European Commission  were the leading thread. From the creation of institutes like EIT, the need for audits of the scientific programmes, and the ambitions the European Commission holds for the future. Kurt Vandenberghe stated that "the impact of EU funded research has been big on job creation and supporting our industries."

In the parallel-sessions the invited speakers discussed the European Commission Framework Programmes and their evaluation, and the efforts to create synergy between EU and National funding programmes. The Framework Programmes were found to need more synergy between the involved funding institutes. In the other room the many cases in which the EU and National funding systems do not complement each other were discussed. As stated by several speakers: alignment is crucial to show the added value of the EU and its research funding systems.

The pre-conference seminar Impact of EU funded research was held in Amsterdam and saw attendance from 17 different countries. It was a very exciting, interactive and inspiring conference. Photos of the conference can be found on the website.
Nordic Summit on Universities for Impact

The Nordic Five Tech alliance celebrated its 10th anniversary with a high-level summit on university impact in Trondheim on 8 June 2016. Nordic Five Tech (N5T) is an exclusive, strategic alliance of the five leading technical universities in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. (DTU, Aalto, NTNU, Chalmers and KTH)

The summit was hosted by the rectors of the Nordic Five tech Universities, and was, to a high degree, interactive with lively discussions, mutual learning and sharing of ideas and experience. The participants were selected representatives from government, industry, public and private sector, students, and researchers mainly from the Nordic countries. The participants have shared interest in achieving even greater impact from the investments in research, education and innovation.

As introductions to the discussions there were presentations from OECD, the Nordic countries and the UK how universities contribute to societal impact, and how it can be assessed and developed. (contribution: Johan Blaus)

Upcoming
AESIS Winter Course
16 - 18 November 2016
During this 3-day training course, experts from multiple countries, leading the innovation in research programming, will discuss their experiences in integrating impact into a research strategy. They will provide the participants with a broad overview of how research councils and universities integrated an evaluation of societal impact, be it before (ex ante), while (ex durante) or after (ex post) the actual research takes place. The course will include lectures, case studies and a hands-on practice on including societal impact in a research programme for the participants.

Themes will include:
- Committing stakeholders in a science funding system or research programme with societal impact components;
- Integrating societal impact ex ante, ex durante or ex post in research strategies;
- Capacity building on societal impact;
- All inclusive or specific approaches for different scientific disciplines;
- Connecting societal impact in research strategies on an institutional, national and international level;
- Evaluation and use of possible societal impact indicators.

The number of participants is limited to 30. AESIS members will get priority at registration.

More information will follow soon on the website.
Globally, there has been a significant increase in activity to build capacity in measuring and reporting the impact from the research. As a group of practitioners, we have been working hard to share our experiences and to assist in developing this capacity across the world. One way to achieve this is by annually holding the International School on Research Impact Assessment (ISRIA). This year’s School will be on the 19th-23rd September in Melbourne, Australia.
 
The 2016 ISRIA is the fourth in a successful series that has raised the international profile of RIA and connected practitioners and organisations from around the world to learn how to effectively measure the success of investment in research and innovation. The five day intensive course is aimed at people working in basic and applied research, program management, evaluation, knowledge translation, policy, and R&D decision-making. Past schools have had strong attendance from delegates from all sectors, especially Health, and the feedback has been extremely positive. I have attached a brochure that outlines the School. The School draws on the expertise of international experts in this field as well as an opportunity to feature and draw upon local knowledge and skills. For further information you can contact Ms. Hinrichs-Krapels.
(contribution: Saba Hinrichs-Krapels)
In many cases, the foundation for successful societal impact is laid at the start of a research project, when developing research questions. Unless these research questions address some pertinent knowledge needs and take into account the context of knowledge use, societal impact will often be hard to achieve. Last February a group of 8 PhD-students in the Social Sciences (University of Utrecht) were the first to participate in a newly developed course that offers tools to develop research questions that are both societally relevant and academically interesting. The tools help researchers reflect on the societal relevance of their research questions and to engage with potential knowledge users in order to find out about their knowledge needs.

The course was well received. It started with a four week online training programme, offering lectures, background readings and assignments. One of the tools introduced was a conversation model and technique that supports an open minded dialogue with potential knowledge users and that helps researchers to find out about their knowledge users’ needs. The training ended with a half-day meeting where students got the opportunity to practice this technique. More info can be found here. (contribution: Femke Merkx)
SROI, or Social Return on Investment, is one of the most well established frameworks for measuring and accounting for social value and impact. Based on a mixture of financial accounting, sustainability reporting and cost benefit analysis, SROI can help you to reliably and credibly measure the social impact of your research.
Social Value UK have been running their flagship 2 day Practitioner course in SROI for over 7 years, and 2016 dates include London, Edinburgh and the Netherlands.
See their website for more details.

 
We thank the partners & supporters

of Impact of Science 2016
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