Call for papers "INVESTIGATING THE SOCIETAL IMPACT OF RESEARCH: Past Achievements and Future Developments" (Brussels, 28-29 Nov 2019)

ECOOM (Centre for Research & Development Monitoring, a interuniversity consortium with participation of KU Leuven, UGent, VUB, UAntwerpen and UHasselt) invite submissions of papers that address the current state-of-the art, definitions and methodical issues on the societal impact of research.



Recently Friesike et al. (2018) acknowledged in Nature that societal impact should be part and parcel of evaluating research, and this comes in the context of a growing appreciation for broader perspectives on the importance of ‘having an impact’. This trend has emerged as dissatisfaction for narrow, economistic approaches, which negates other types of impacts. The discussion on the societal impact research (and related institutions) intends to broaden the scope of evaluation studies beyond the mainstream indicators such as patents, spinoffs and scientific publications, to address the grand societal challenges. On the other hand, broadening too much the definition of impacts risks being vague and inconclusive (Bornmann 2013).

Some scholars judge the debate on societal impact a way to jeopardise academic freedom (Colley 2014); whereas, others hail the idea behind it as a guarantee to direct (publicly-funded) research efforts to benefit society (Evans 2016). Accordingly, public funders should broaden their perspectives besides the mere counting of publications and citations. They should also acknowledge other important outputs such as developments of scientific products and services, important data sets, platforms and software as well as their influence on policymaking (Dotti 2018). Finally, other scholars argue that it is very complex, if not impossible, to measure the societal impact of university and HEI (Brereton et al. 2017).



The aim is to collect a variety of insights debating the societal challenges, contributing to the understanding and assessing societal impacts with an emphasis on the implications for evaluation theory and policy practices. Contributions do not need to refer to only one thematic area but can be cross-cutting; contributions can be theoretical, methodological as well as applied to case studies. Academic as well as policy- and practice-based submissions are strongly encouraged. Papers from all academic disciplines and policy fields which deal with mission-orientation and societal impact evaluation are explicitly welcomed. Three main sub-themes are identified:

1) The nature of societal impact

2) The measurement of societal impact

3) The policy implications of societal impact




1 June 2019

Submit Expression of Interest as abstract of around 300 words

Contact: Dr. Nicola Francesco DOTTI,

20 June 2019

Notification of acceptance

1 October 2019

Submission of the full paper

28-29 November 2019

Workshops in Brussels

15 December

Submissions of the full papers for the Special Issue in Scientometrics



Thursday 28 November 2019, Academic Workshop

Friday 29 November 2019, Research-Policy Workshop

Both events to be held in Brussels

Organised by ECOOM - Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). More information on the ECOOM website soon (

Link to the Facebook event.


Organising Committee

Walter YSEBAERT (Vrije Universiteit Brussel & promotor of ECOOM Brussel), André SPITHOVEN (Belgian Science Policy Office & Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Nicola Francesco DOTTI (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Florian Hendrik J VAN LEE (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)


Dr. Nicola F. Dotti, 



Bornmann, L. (2013), ‘What is societal impact of research and how can it be assessed? a literature survey’, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology64 (2), 217–33.

Brereton, F., E. O’Neill and L. Dunne (2017), ‘Towards measuring societal impact of research: Insights from an Irish case study’,Irish Journal of Sociology25 (2), 150–73.

Colley, H. (2014), ‘What (a) to do about “impact”: a Bourdieusian critique’, British Educational Research Journal40 (4), 660–81.

Dotti, N. F. (ed.) (2018), Knowledge, Policymaking and Learning for European Cities and Regions. From Research to Practice, Cheltenham (UK): Edward Elgar Publishing.

Evans, R. (2016), ‘Achieving and evidencing research “impact”? Tensions and dilemmas from an ethic of care perspective’, Area48 (2), 213–21.

Friesike, S., B. Fecher and G. G. Wagner (2018), ‘Teach young scientists the importance of societal impact for research’, Nature554, 300.

Perkmann, M., V. Tartari, M. McKelvey, E. Autio, A. Broström, P. D’Este, R. Fini, A. Geuna, R. Grimaldi, A. Hughes, S. Krabel, M. Kitson, P. Llerena, F. Lissoni, A. Salter and M. Sobrero (2013), ‘Academic engagement and commercialisation: A review of the literature on university–industry relations’, Research Po

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