The Network for Advancing and Evaluating Societal Impact of Science, or AESIS, is currently conducting its Impact of Social Sciences and Humanities on Society conference series through Friday. The meeting, which was pre-COVID scheduled to be held in person in Ontario, Canada, will be conducted virtually (albeit from Ottawa).
The AESIS Network is a collection of individual members that include evaluators, policymakers, research councils, funders, knowledge exchange experts, and “other stakeholders of societal impact of science.” The network is managed by the Netherlands-based ScienceWorks.
Social Science Space is reporting on the conference with posts drawn from its sessions and events presented here in episodic form.
Indicators of SSH Impact session
Day 1 of the AESIS Conference culminated in seven parallel sessions series covering a range of topics such as measuring the impact of the social sciences and humanities, to understanding how social science and humanities (SSH) could impact big data, AI, and Grand Challenges. The Indicators of SSH Impact session specifically focused on building more reliable and feasible metrics for evaluation of social impact by SSH research. Session chair Kate Geddie of CIFAR and panelists Kara Scally-Irvine of KSI Consulting and Vera Hazelwood of Researchfish detailed the importance of metadata and potential for deeper, more impactful data findings on evaluating societal impact, while interrogating the effectiveness of the question of building reliable and feasible metrics.
Geddie began the breakout session by acknowledging the difficulty of data collection and interpretation. She posed the question of whether or not it is possible to build a better metric. With regards to her organization CIFAR, she stated the need for CIFAR’s model to pursue that question, with what the panelists stated is a multitude of data and metadata available. Moreover, there is a breadth of technology that researchers can use to understand such data and further their understanding of research systems across disciplines.
However, as Scally-Irvine emphasized, researchers must remember why this information is important, and acknowledge the human value judgement inherent to what measures and metrics we privilege for results. Understanding that metrics stem from particular ways of thinking and perspectives, perhaps we can utilize resources in relation to the fact that they are culturally embedded. This may also help us to better understand knowledge for impact. Moreover, what are the potential ways that researchers can get the most out of their strategies and research? As Hazelwood stated, stakeholders invested in research are increasingly interested and supportive of the impact that can be derived from research. As such, it is important that researches leverage the information from a multitude of sources, analyze ways to improve the impact of their data and strategies, and improve relationships with funders. Fortunately, SSH researchers have high rates of engagement and collaboration with their audiences.
Furthering collaboration and interaction with funding bodies, the public, and policy officials can not only help integrate the social sciences and humanities with societal issues, but also improve the impact of SSH research and data.
About the Conference
The last iteration of the series took place in the European cities of Cardiff and Copenhagen and later in Washington, D.C. In bringing the session to Canada, organizers note the country’s success in promoting its “research intensity” to a global audience. “The three granting councils [Social Science and Humanities (SSHRC); Natural Science and Engineering; and Canadian Institutes of Health Research], alongside other organisations and universities, have been aiming to evaluate (funded) performance on not only academic impact, but also on indicators addressing future challenges, the engagement of indigenous communities, and attention for equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
A number of Canadian organizations, including SSHRC, Research Impact Canada, York and Ryerson universities, and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences are partners of the conference, as are some private enterprises like SAGE Publishing, the parent of Social Science Space.
The program committee is similarly broad, with McMaster University philosopher Sandra Lapointe; David Phipps, executive director of research and innovation Services at York; Amy Cook, senior director of knowledge mobilization for CIFAR; Susan Morris, director of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; Tim Wilson, executive director of research grants & partnerships for SSHRC; Steven Liss, vice-president research and innovation at Ryerson; and Gabriel Miller, president of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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