Societal value creation of research


(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’.

The aim is to create (societal) impact.


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 hardly do justice to the intricate nature of value creation and impact nor to the creativity involved.

Policy at Ghent University

In its mission to stimulate and incentivise the contributions of Ghent University’s research community to society the university drafted a policy plan (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.


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 (knowledge brokers for interdisciplinary consortia)
  • 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
  • Introduction of specific fund for societal value creation
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: new approach to assessment
  • 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 Enhancement Unit
Esther De Smet

Information in Dutch