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Researchers seek to measure the public impact of the social sciences

A team of researchers has been funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to undertake the most thorough analysis yet of how academic research in the social sciences achieves public policy impacts, contributes to economic prosperity and informs public understanding of policy issues and economic and social changes.

The programme of work will be led by experts at the London School of Economics and Political Science and involve teams from Imperial College London and the University of Leeds. The seven component projects (totaling £2.9 million over three years) will investigate overall patterns of influence in UK and European governance, and look at specific impacts in health policy-making, economic decision-making, responses to climate change and public management.

Impact signThe programme will involve three years of research seeking to develop precise methods for measuring and evaluating the impact of research in the public sphere. It will produce data that will be of interest to all UK universities on how to better capture and track the impacts of their social science research and applications work.

The programme is co-ordinated by a central team in LSE’s Public Policy Group and involves the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London the ESRC Centre for Climate Change at Leeds University, LSE Health and the LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance.

The programme committee is chaired by Professor Sarah Worthington, pro director for research at LSE. She commented: ‘In an age when universities are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the impact of their research on the economy and society, it is imperative that we develop better methods for tracking and monitoring impacts. This research programme will develop and assess the most feasible and accurate methods for doing that.’

Professor Patrick Dunleavy, chair of LSE’s Public Policy Group commented: ‘Around five sixths of the modern UK economy is now built around services and so the social sciences make key contributions to promoting services sector growth and innovation. In addition, they extensively shape the most effective public policies, which are evidence-based and agile in responding to fast-changing needs and social problems. This programme of work seeks to make a step-change in our understanding and tracking of these key contributions to national productivity and prosperity’.

HEFCE has made the grant of £2.9 million from its Strategic Development Fund and the programme involves a communications and dissemination strategy to ensure that all UK universities gain immediate access to its emerging findings. The central team will produce handbooks which will be available to all higher education institutions on how to track and most effectively expand applied impacts.


For more information contact:

LSE press office 020 7955 7440

Imperial College press office 020 7594 2198

University of Leeds press office 0113 343 5764

HEFCE 0117 931 7317

18 November 2009