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New approaches to assessing the non-academic impact of social science research

Time (GMT +01) 00:00 23:59


Sandra Nutley - Director of the ESRC Research Unit for Research Utilisation
Dr Jonathan Lomas - Canadian Health Services Foundation (CHSF)

Dr Phil Davies
- Cabinet Office


This symposium for researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the public and the private sector, held in May 2005, aimed to provide an opportunity to share approaches and discuss current international developments in demonstrating and assessing the impact of social science research. The symposium was chaired by Dr Phil Davies from the Cabinet Office.

Key speakers included Sandra Nutley (Director of the ESRC Research Unit for Research Utilisation), who presented a useful background paper outlining various approaches on current thinking, and Dr Jonathan Lomas who described the work of the Canadian Health Services Foundation (CHSF), an organisation aiming to promote evidence-based policy in health services in Canada.

The key conclusion was that there is no one-size -fits-all approach to measuring impact. There are a number of different approaches (tracking forwards, tracking backwards, tracking during etc), which can be applied at different levels. Logic-based models are good for assessing whether what was planned is being done at project or programme level, whereas more qualitative, opportunistic approaches are better for assessing the impact of an organisation. The CHSF maintains an 'impact book' to collect correspondence and stories illustrating impact, and has periodic reviews by international panels of experts.