Mapping research activities and societal impact by taxonomy of indicators: Uniformity and diversity across academic fields

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Purpose – Several frameworks have been developed to map and document scientific societal interaction and impact, each reflecting the specific forms of impact and interaction that characterize different academic fields. The ReAct taxonomy was developed to register data about “productive interactions” and provide an overview of research activities within the social sciences and humanities (SSH). The purpose of the present research is to examine whether the SSH-oriented taxonomy is relevant to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines when clarifying societal interactions and impact, and whether the taxonomy adds value to the traditional STEM impact indicators such as citation scores and H-index.
Design/methodology/approach – The research question was investigated through qualitative interviews with nine STEM researchers. During the interviews, the ReAct taxonomy and visual research profiles based on the ReAct categories were used to encourage and ensure in-depth discussions. The visual research profiles were based on publicly available material on the research activities of the interviewees.
Findings – The study provided an insight into how STEM researchers assessed the importance of mapping societal interactions as a background for describing research impact, including which indicators are useful for expressing societal relevance and impact. With regard to the differences between STEM and SSH, the study identified a high degree of cohesion and uniformity in the importance of indicators. Differences were more closely related to the purpose of mapping and impact assessment than between scientific fields. The importance of amalgamation and synergy between academic and societal activities was also emphasised and clarified.

Practical implications – The findings highlight the importance of mapping societal activities and impact, and that societal indicators should be seen as inspiring guidelines depending on purpose and use. A significant contribution is the identification of both uniformity and diversity between the main fields of SSH and STEM, as well as the connection between the choice of indicators and the purpose of mapping, e.g., for impact measurement, profiling, or career development.

Originality/value – The work sheds light on STEM researchers’ views on research mapping, visualisation, and impact assessment, including similarities and differences between STEM and SSH research.
TidsskriftJournal of Documentation
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)1049-1070
Antal sider22
StatusUdgivet - 25 aug. 2023


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