Societal value creation of research

Online toolkit for researchers (in Dutch - English in late 2016)

A. Definition

(Societal) Value creation (in Belgium and the Netherlands often referred to as ‘valorisation’) is the process of creating an added value to scientific knowledge and expertise outside the realm of science. If the created added value is aimed at or is of specific importance to a community of external stakeholders (ranging from the general public to very specific groups of stakeholders) the value creation is deemed ‘societal’.

B. Scope

In its mission to stimulate and incentivise the contributions of Ghent University’s research community to society this policy plan is partnered with the Strategic Plan for the Industrial Research Fund Activities 2014-2018 (which has economic value creation at its core).

The policy plan puts forward an approach:

  • Which is relevant to all fields of science
  • Which respects basic fundamental research
  • Which takes into account the individuality and talent of researchers
  • Which recognises societal value creation as an iterative process: from the initial research question to the methods used and the dissemination of the results

The policy plan focuses on:

  • Putting forward a framework for quality assurance and assessment (rather than an exercise of bean counting by way of quantitative indicators) via a description of the most common types of societal value creation
  • Creating an academic environment within Ghent University conducive to societal value creation via a set of actions

B1. Characteristics

Societal value creation comes in many types (‘pathways to impact’): it may be a specific goal and/or output/outcome of a certain research project; it may be the consequence of (strategic) networking but it may also be ingrained within the overall research attitude.

In order to assess, stimulate and further develop societal value creation it is important to define and make visible the impact or results this process produces. This might be achieved by introducing a new approach that deviates from rather classic routines, which mainly focus on output and quantification. An expression by way of purely quantitative indicators (e.g. within an allocation model) will scarcely do justice to the intricate nature of value creation and impact nor to the creativity involved.

B2. Overview of most common types

Science communication

General: websites, blogs and other social media contributions, podcasts, public lectures, expositions, documentaries, ...
Specific: science bars, activities for children, open house activities, workshops, ...

Specific web section

Contributions to public debate Expert opinion via public media, op ed pieces, think tank, awareness campaigns, contributions to online encyclopaedia, ...
Policy advice Policy research projects, legislation design, procedures and guidelines, endowed chair, memberships to expert committees, ...
Participatory research Graduation projects, living labs, social innovation, UX research, citizen science, coproduction and service design, academic worksplace, stakeholder events, ...
Service to society Expert opinion and consultancy, shared research infrastructure, trade fairs, training, manuals (incl. school books), specific online tools and apps, methodology, ...

C. Actions

The policy plan describes a broad field of action and a wide array of supportive measures: from concrete tools for the research community to strategic embedding.

  • Evaluation Taskforce for Science Communication
  • Value creation as part of faculty policy plan on research
  • Evaluation of terminology (e.g. forms for assessment procedures)
  • Adjustment of research evaluation protocol
  • Addition to webportal (online toolkit, public webpages on participatory research, showcasing impact)
  • Build-up of relevant funding expertise
  • Finetuning of online info on Science Shop
  • Introduction of platform for citizen participation
Specific tools
  • Introduction of impact paragraph for Special Research Fund
  • Overview of public lectures
  • Showcasing success stories
  • Decentralised community of practice
  • Use of in-house expertise
  • Synergies with projects on Community Service Learning and Entrepreneurship
  • Improved collaboration with PR services and External Relations
  • Reactivate Science Shop
  • Expansion of researcher training
Specific tools
  • Efficient inventory of expertise and service to society activities (Current Research Information System - GISMO project)
  • Strategic synergy with schools, museums and science centres (incl. Ghent University Museum)
  • Mandatory lay summary of PhD thesis

Maatschappelijke valorisatie van onderzoek: ivoren torenPreconditions

  • Policies on Recruitment and Career Progression: adaptation of evaluation criteria (HR Excellence in Research Strategy)
  • Implementation of Research Information System (Project GISMO)
  • Collaborative approach to all levels of communication
  • Favourable circumstances and stable incentives on Flemish level


Research Department - Policy and Quality Control Unit
Esther De Smet