When Grand Vision Meets Peer Review: Untangling “Research Impact” in a National Funding Agency
University College Dublin, Ireland
National funding agencies establish and fund research programmes based on many factors: organizational mission and remit, national and international research strategy and policies, workforce needs, to name a few. In particular, the agency must demonstrate “impact” of research: that their resources are being directed towards projects that are relevant and enhance society, economy, environment and culture in particular ways that are deemed important by the agency. However, how the grand vision of research impact is translated into “on the ground” funding programmes (and how and who gets funded through them) is often an unexpected journey that is mediated by peer review processes involving various stakeholder groups: grant applicants, expert reviewers and funding agency managers and committees. This translation complicates both the role of impact in all dimensions of the research enterprise.
This paper investigates the process of how “research impact” becomes translated from the grand vision of a national funding agency to the design and implementation of a specific funding programme, then to the prospective peer reviews and eventual funding decisions of the applications. Drawing on policy and vision documents, peer review criteria, anonymised peer reviews of applications, and interviews with stakeholders, we explore this process through the lens of John Law’s (1992) work on actor networks to understand how the different actors address, mobilise, and translate “research impact” and to what extent a national funding agency’s criteria and methods for assessing the potential impact of research pick the “winners”.
EFFORTI: Comparative Findings of 19 Case Study Interventions for a Greater Gender Equality in R&I across 6 European Countries
1Open University of Catalonia; 2Fraunhofer ISI; 3Aarhus University; 4Joanneum Research; 5NaTE: The Association of Hungarian Women in Science; 6Fraunhofer CeRRI
This paper presents the findings of the comparative analysis of 19 gender equality interventions in R&I case studies carried out across Europe (Austria, Denmark, Germany Hungary, Spain and Sweden) in the framework of EFFORTI (Evaluation Framework for Promoting Gender Equality in R&I) H2020 research project.
For each case study a theory of change was developed which was based on three main axes: concept/ design analysis, implementation analysis, and an impact assessment. This paper synthesises the findings across all case studies focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the design of interventions by sub-fields of action and the common facilitating and hindering factors that have shaped the implementation and subsequent impact of the interventions. Case study evaluations are then discussed followed by a summary of the ethical and methodological reflections of the case study authors. Case study work to validate the EFFORTI evaluation framework is then presented regarding the theory of change approach, the validation of the EFFORTI indicators and the EFFORTI impact stories.
Big Databases and the Uncertainties of Financialising Technoscientific Knowledge in Healthcare
University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
The English NHS is seen as key site for the use of big data to revolutionise biomedical research. It is a universal healthcare system, with strong penetration of electronic health records in primary care, giving the possibility of harvesting large amounts of de-identified patient data for big data analytics. We report on a qualitative study of GPs, staff from primary care research database services, and interested citizens. We examine some of the challenges (primary care) databases face in England, drawing on ‘sociology of expectations’ and STS literature on the financialisation of technoscientific knowledge. By bringing into focus the performativity of expectations as well as the various competing, contrasting and complementary valuation practices these data infrastructures have to navigate through, we show that collecting and curating these datasets is a complex and laborious practice within a highly competitive and regulated environment. There are variable access costs and time lags in data availability and demanding technological and human capital requirements for data analysis for these databases. At same time, maintaining public acceptability creates tensions between data being open and available to researchers and the necessity for these research databases to find a sustainable model of operation. We conclude by discussing the role of these databases in the internalisation of the uncertainty involved with NHS research and development externalisation to universities and industry, while these actors externalise other risks and costs involved (e.g. feasibility, data collection, information governance, data validation), and, what this means for the future of data-based research in public healthcare.
Controversy Over Animal Experimentation : A Waltz In Five Steps
University of Lausanne, Switzerland
According to Dorothy Nelkin (1995), animal experimentation (AE) controversy concerns “the social, moral and religious implication of a scientific theory or research practice” (p. 447). While the conditions for the resolution or closure of a controversy have been described (E. McMullin, 1987), none were met in Switzerland until today.
To understand why this controversy is still vivid in Switzerland, a socio-historical analysis was realized from 1950 onwards. Six elements of the controversy have been identified (validity of AE, status of animal, alternative methods, economical aspect, relocation of tests). The results delineate five periods, where each element of the controversy was more or less prominent. In this time interval, four popular initiatives related to the issue were proposed to vote to Swiss citizen. They were extensively discussed in the public sphere along various frames, that overlap the elements of the controversy (for framing of science-related issue see Nisbet and Scheufele, 2009). We will conclude by showing how the future initiative on the issue (2020) relates to the previous periods and how it differentiates.
Nelkin, D. (1995). Science controversies: the dynamics of public disputes in the United States. In Jasanoff, et al (eds), Handbook of science and technology studies, Thousand Oak: Sage (444-456).
McMullin, E. (1987). Scientific controversy and its termination. In Engelhardt, et al. (eds). Scientific controversies: case studies in the resolution and closure of disputes in science and technology, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (49-91).
Nisbet, M. & Scheufeule, D. (2009). What’s next for science communication? Promising directions and lingering distractions. American Journal of Botany, 96(10): 1767-1778.