Innovation is driving exponential changes in all spheres of society, as it occurs much faster than the human capacity for response and resilience. This implies the ability to respond to new challenges with actions that enable impact in terms of social, economic, and scientific benefits.
However, research results are not created equal. In some disciplines, like Social Science and Humanities (SSH), impact generation is traditionally discussed in an academic context. Nevertheless, these disciplines can and should have a broad range of impacts that go beyond research institutions or universities through verifiable change in the real world. Many of these can be observed and described, while others are harder to define.
The University of Macerata is one of the leading academic organizations interested in improving how scientists understand, develop, and capture meaningful impact from SSH research. As one of the oldest higher education institutions in Europe and the only university in Italy with a complete humanistic focus, the organization seeks to strengthen its positioning strategy and make societal impact a central part of its research activity.
Boosting research results
A recent joint initiative of the University of Macerata and META Group aims to deepen the impact of SSH research results and raise awareness among beneficiaries by highlighting the value of exploitation, dissemination, and communication of research results beyond the scientific community.
The programme consists in the development of tailored trainings, tools and didactic materials to support researchers and technical staff. Specifically, the planned activities are divided into 5 main actions:
Analysis and preparation of competence-building materials: a questionnaire was prepared for university support staff, professors, and researchers to investigate needs, services offered and main gaps. The results were then used as a basis for the development of a tailor-made competence building programme and for the preparation of training materials.
Promotion of the project and involvement of final beneficiaries: target group engagement was promoted through webinars and face-to-face events, covering topics such as Impact on SSH; Exploitation – Dissemination – Communication; Open access research data management; Challenge oriented research
Coaching to administrative and communication support teams: META organized a 3-day course to develop the competencies of organizational and communication staff around the themes of impact and exploitation. The activity alternated workshops and exercises on intervention procedures or case studies, such as on the use of SSH research results; activities related to exploitation, dissemination and communication tools to boost use; and guidelines for pitching a research result.
Training, support and mentoring of the selected research teams: the research teams participated in direct work experiences to consolidate their knowledge on impact. They engaged in a practical team learning process and individual mentoring activities. These exercises covered topics such as the Horizon Europe Framework; Impact and use of research results; Lean Canvas and business planning; intellectual property protection; and how to present a research result.
Dissemination and sharing of project results: to give visibility to the commitment of the University of Macerata to promote the impact of SSH research. The results of the pilot activity will be presented by the five research groups in a final event to be held in October.
Solving new societal challenges
SSH organizations are under pressure to rethink the way research is understood, used and promoted. They can do this by equipping scientists with the mindset and tools to actively contribute to solving new societal challenges and creating effective impact.
META’s work addresses some of the most critical challenges faced by research institutions: lack of research exploitation competencies, difficulty in communicating and raising awareness on the use of research, and absence of a framework to capture meaningful impact.
According to a survey conducted by META, 51% of the researchers interviewed can't see research impact outside of academia, while a quarter of the respondents face communication challenges beyond the academic environment.
If you are a member of a higher education institution or research organization looking to take your SSH research beyond the lecture hall or lab, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.