The impact of economics research
As set out in the SUC programme 2013-2016 Performances de la recherche en sciences humaines et sociales, research conducted at universities serves to expand knowledge in academia as well as to promote the cultural, economic and social development of society. Although bibliometric measurements of success (and their further development in the form of webometrics) are primarily used to present findings within the academic community, there is to-date no established set of tools to measure or to render visible what scholarly research contributes to the economic and social development of a society.
The contribution to society is, however, of particular importance in the social sciences, where the research focus inherently involves regular exchange with practitioners in the relevant field. Especially research in business administration offers a prime example of a discipline in which research collaboration and funding of research projects through third-party funding are ordinary practices. As such, factoring research findings into decisions in business, politics and private-sector organisations (research transfer) represents a key criterion of success in economics research.
The initiative Der Wertbeitrag betriebswirtschaftlicher Forschung in Praxis und Gesellschaft (Impact of economics research in practice and in society) adopted a multi-phased strategy to examine possible approaches and metrics to measure and make visible the contribution of economics research to businesses and society. These findings can serve to support a larger mapping of the impact of research conducted at universities.
In a first step, the initiative examined current literature and approaches to increasing the visibility of the practical impact of economics research, and identified possible methods (such as indicators or metrics). In a second step, explorative interviews were held with practitioners (private and public sector) to discuss their understanding of how research in economics contributes to their work and how this contribution could be made visible. Finally, the third step consisted of a quantitative survey of Swiss economics researchers to analyse how they assess the significance and practicability of the identified approaches.
The findings generated a model of the value of economics research that comprises three catalysts and/or dimensions, which in turn can be secured through indicators of varying significance and practicability.