Interest in evaluating non-economic social outcomes of science and technology research has risen in policy circles in recent years. The interest in social impacts of research has not yet given rise to a great proliferation of useful, valid techniques for evaluating such impacts. This study presents detailed case studies of four US National Science Foundation (NSF) programs/initiatives to provide a framework for understanding diverse efforts at addressing social impacts, and to suggest some important gaps in our research approaches for assessing socio-economic impacts of research. The four cases studied − the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), the Innovation Corps (I-Corps), the Arizona State University Center for Nanotechnology in Society, and the NSF “Broader Impacts” criteria—were chosen for their diversity in intent and modality but operating within a single agency. The cases are compared based on criteria important for assessing socio-economic outcomes: the initiative's modality, enabling policy vehicle, benefit guarantor, distribution and appropriability of benefits, specificity of beneficiary, social-economic range, and timing of the benefit stream. The paper concludes with a discussion of the most pressing methodological and theoretical issues that need addressing for greater progress in assessing social impacts.
- Broader impacts
- National science foundation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Strategy and Management
- Management Science and Operations Research
- Management of Technology and Innovation