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In this paper, we present a conceptual framework for studying research impact focusing on the foundations that need to be in place to accelerate an observable change of policy, practice, or behaviour. The article investigates the relationship between micro-impacts and societal change, and how smaller impacts scale into larger cascades of end-effects and value-creation. We define micro-impacts as interactions and connections where information is exchanged between a researcher or research group and external audiences, stakeholders, or co-producers. Micro-impacts are elements in highly complex causal relations between research activities and larger societal macroshifts. We argue that even though these causal relations are complex, micro-impacts are tangible and observable and should be integrated in research evaluations as constitutive elements of causal impact relations leading to larger macroshifts. We suggest a working model for studying micro-impacts and for reflecting on the causality of impacts by drawing on contributions from philosophy of causation. A proper understanding of causation is a prerequisite for eventually understanding and capturing research impact, which itself is a prerequisite for responsible research assessment and planning.
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