Social science research institutes a national asset
An evaluation of social science institutes shows that they have made important contributions to policy and social development at many levels. The institutes do a good job of cooperating with, and understanding the needs of, their clients and various users.
The Research Council of Norway appointed a panel of Nordic experts to carry out an evaluation of the 22 social science research institutes receiving public basic funding through the Council. The panel was headed by Professor Kerstin Sahlin of Uppsala University.
The evaluation report is available for download in the right-hand column.
Important for policy and social development
“One of the evaluation’s main conclusions is that these institutes are a national asset – they make important contributions to policy and social developments at many levels. They provide an important forum for exchange between research and practitioners in the area of policy design,” states Anders Hanneborg, Executive Director of the Division for Science at the Research Council.
“This was clearly evident in the many impact cases that the institutes submitted to the panel. The relevance of their activities is demonstrated by the wide range of their impact, from regional business development to international policymaking.”
The panel recommends that the government should continue to invest in this arena. The panel also found that the institutes vary widely in terms of focus areas, internal organisation and scientific publication.
“The best institutes are very effective at combining quality and societal relevance. They have a clear understanding of the synergies between the publicly funded research they carry out and the research commissioned by clients,” explains panel chair, Kerstin Sahlin.
“The success of the institutes depends on their ability to combine this with both internally motivated research and the needs of their clients, including the need to address entirely new research questions.”
“We also see that some of the institutions should work more closely with their users to define issues related to – and to disseminate the results of – their research more effectively,” says Ms Sahlin.
Oriented towards scientific publication
Social science institutes account for approximately 15 per cent of the overall turnover in the institute sector, but represented close to 30 per cent of the sector's publication points. In other words, they are more oriented towards scientific publication than other institutes in the other arenas.
Within the social science institutes, the institutes classified by the panel as "internationally oriented" produce the most scientific publications per researcher full-time equivalent (FTE). The welfare and society institutes display somewhat lower production levels, and the regionally anchored institutes produce the least.
“The most productive institutes publish on a par with the best Norwegian universities. However, it is also important to point out that key aspects of the institutes’ activities are disseminated via other channels than those covered in the underlying bibliometric materials,” Ms Sahlin adds.
Many successful in internationalisation, others have room for improvement
The panel found that the institutes’ international cooperation on projects and publications was satisfactory and more successful than quantification based on the EU Framework Programmes indicates on its own.
But there is wide variation between the institutes here as well, and the panel recommends more individualised objectives for international cooperation based on the specific purpose and resources of each institute.
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