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How do researchers approach societal impact?

Author: Fecher, B., Hebing, M.
Published in: PLoS ONE
Year: 2021
Type: Academic articles
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0254006

Based on a communication-centered approach, this article examines how researchers approach societal impact, that is, what they think about societal impact in research governance, what their societal goals are, and how they use communication formats. Hence, this study offers empirical evidence on a group that has received remarkably little attention in the scholarly discourse on the societal impact of research—academic researchers. Our analysis is based on an empirical survey among 499 researchers in Germany conducted from April to June 2020. We show that most researchers regard societal engagement as part of their job and are generally in favor of impact evaluation. However, few think that societal impact is a priority at their institution, and even fewer think that institutional communication departments reach relevant stakeholders in society. Moreover, we show that researchers’ societal goals and use of communication formats differ greatly between their disciplines and the types of organization that they work at. Our results add to the ongoing metascientific discourse on the relationship between science and society and offer empirical support for the hypothesis that assessment needs to be sensitive to disciplinary and organizational context factors.

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Connected HIIG researchers

Marcel Hebing, Prof. Dr.

Associated Researcher: Knowledge & Society

Benedikt Fecher, Dr. (on parental leave)

Head of Research Programme: Knowledge & Society


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