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Newsletter, Issue 4 February 2020

Outcomes from the 2nd RI-PATHS Advisory Board meeting

The second Advisory Board meeting was held on 16 September 2019 in Brussels to take stock of the RI-PATHS project progress and suggest further avenues for conceptual development and exploitation of the end results. The project team presented the outcomes from the participatory workshops and the draft elements of the impact assessment framework. The advisors provided feedback on the evolution of the IA framework remarking that the work goes beyond purely defining indicators and that important progress has been made in the classifications of impact related areas, definition of pathways and approach to modularity.

The meeting included in-depth discussions on the role of indicators and their definitions. The advisors highlighted that the prioritisation of indicators and their linkage to specific pathways is to some extent expected from the project. However, depending on the stakeholders that are being consulted, different importance may be given to the same indicators, thus introducing a certain ‘bias’ in defining what is desirable or feasible to be collected. The selection or removal of indicators from the long list should be done carefully in particular taking into consideration the policy makers’ needs.

A discussion followed on how to reconcile the RI’s perspective, where priority is given to delivering on scientific mission, with the funders and policy requirements related to economic and societal impacts, which gain an increasing importance. Researchers tend to resist to be judged on something that is not their primary mission and the pursuit of scientific excellence and tend to consider the assessment of economic aspects as very complex and beyond the RI core activities. This may lead to the perception that scientific and socio-economic impacts are mutually exclusive, while they rather build on each other. The Advisory Board suggested the idea to explore during the specific cases of RI pilots and look at specific pathways that led to most impact on the funders. It was added that different spheres of influence should be defined to tackle the complexity and distinguish between aspects on which an RIs has direct control (science) and other impacts (economy) where they do not have direct control but can influence.

RI-PATHS Policy Workshop

At the workshop held at the Fraunhofer Officer in Brussels on 22 October 2019, the RI-PATHS team presented a condensed summary of project’s findings on how to account for socio-economic impacts of research infrastructures. It demonstrated to an audience of different policy makers from across the European Union and representatives of RI associations how the projects’ findings can be used for practical purposes. In the morning, the discussion focused on more general issues regarding the evolving political function of impact assessments of research infrastructures. In the afternoon, the workshop focused on existing insights from expert discussions regarding opportunities and challenges resulting from impact-related monitoring. Beyond a presentation of project results, the presentations featured insights and views of external speakers from the policy domain (DG Research and Innovation, DG Regio, UK Research and Innovation) as well as representatives of organisations shaping the discussion in the field (ESFRI, OECD). It provided an additional opportunity for learning and exchange among policy makers on the needs and challenges of impact assessments.

Updates on ongoing IA pilots

As the RI-PATHS project is entering its final phase, consortium partners are engaging in a number of piloting exercises where the work done so far in building an Impact Assessment (IA) framework is applied to real-life case studies. Partners are teamed up to identify pathways, methodologies and approaches to implement and carry out Impact Assessment at Research Infrastructures within and beyond the project’s consortium

Spotlight on collaborations: ERIC Forum Implementation project

Ana Helman (ESF) participated in the meeting of the Evaluation and Impact Assessment Work Package (WP4) of the ERIC Forum Implementation project held on 2nd October 2019 in Berlin. The meeting brought together representatives from European Spallation Source ERIC, ECRIN-ERIC, Instruct-ERIC, BBMRI-ERIC, ICOS-ERIC, EMBRC ERIC as well as the RI-PATHS and RI-VIS projects and provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the interest, rationale, challenges and opportunities of socio-economic impact assessment activities. The common aim is to find ways to showcase the impact of research infrastructures and demonstrate their value for society to all stakeholders. While RI-PATHS is mostly focused on developing a general framework for socio-economic impact assessment, ERIC Forum and its members are looking to apply state of the art processes, tools and approaches to implement IA. Future collaboration is expected to bring mutual benefits as the RI-PATHS will be developing its online tool that will be submitted to the ERIC forum community for testing prior to its release to the public.

Report of the ESFRI working group on monitoring of research infrastructures performance

The European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) published the report with proposals for a common approach across Research Infrastructures (RIs) to monitor their performance based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). A working group at ESFRI developed the KPIs to make them suitable for a wider range of RIs, funding authorities and stakeholders. Indeed, KPIs take into account the most commonly held objectives of pan-European RIs and tested them against the RACER criteria, i.e. they had to be Relevant, Accepted, Credible, Easy to monitor, Robust.

ESFRI’s Monitoring of Research Infrastructures Performance report suggests that to implemented KPIs effectively, they must be adapted to the specific context of individual RIs, with customised KPIs according to their stage of development. The working group also noted that in the evaluation of RIs, quantitative indicators should be used along with narratives, such as the theory of change and storytelling, to add specification on their context. Not all KPIs, nor all objectives, are equally relevant to all RIs. In their recommendations, the working group also warns that given the diversity of RIs, their objectives and state of development, KPIs are not suitable for a comparison of the performance of RIs.

The report presents 21 KPIs according to nine objectives: enabling scientific excellence, delivery of education and training, enhancing transnational collaboration in Europe, facilitating economic activity, outreach to the public, optimising data use, provision of scientific advice, facilitating international cooperation, and optimising management. For each indicator, ESFRI’s working group provides a reference sheet that comprises a definition, data sources, method of calculation, and other information concerning calculation or applicability.

RI-PATHS partners contributed to the work of the working group participating in the workshop on monitoring of Research Infrastructures, with proposals regarding the harmonisation of RI costs and financial flow needs for RIs, the merits and limits of KPIs and practices on the use of KPIs by various RIs.

Save the date of the RI-PATHS final event 10 June 2020 at CERN!

RI-PATHS invites research infrastructures, funding agencies, policy makers and other interested stakeholder communities to the project final event “A European framework for socio-economic impact of research infrastructures: A way forward”. The event will take place on 10 June at CERN in Geneva.

The event has two goals: first, to present the socio-economic impact assessment framework developed by the project and second, to launch a discussion on how the knowledge generated in this field can be put into practice. The aim is to gather a broad audience of users and stakeholders including representatives of research infrastructure management, ESFRI delegates, the European Commission, OECD, as well as policy and evaluation organisations from third countries such as Canada, Australia and the US.

Calendar of events

Past events where RI-PATHS project was presented

  • ESFRI Validation Workshop on "Monitoring of Research Infrastructures Methodology and Key Performance Indicators” (3 July 2019, Brussels, Belgium) Learn more
  • ERIC Forum Implementation Project, meeting on WP4 “Evaluation and Impact Assessment” (2 October 2019, Berlin, Germany)
  • ATTRACT project workshop “Socio-economic Impact of Big Science Research: New Theories, Models and Measures” (27-28 November 2019, Barcelona, Spain) Learn more
  • ELIXIR staff exchange project “Empowering ELIXIR Nodes to measure and communicate their performance and impact” (30 January 2020, Lisbon, Portugal). Learn more

UPCOMING EVENTS WITH RI-PATHS PARTICIPATION

  • ELIXIR STAFF EXCHANGE PROJECT "EMPOWERING ELIXIR NODES TO MEASURE AND COMMUNICATE THEIR PERFORMANCE AND IMPACT" (12 March 2020, Bari, Italy)
  • CONFERENCE "EUROPEAN RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES FOR A SMARTER FUTURE" (18-19 March 2020, Zagreb, Croatia)
  • ELIXIR STAFF EXCHANGE PROJECT "EMPOWERING ELIXIR NODES TO MEASURE AND COMMUNICATE THEIR PERFORMANCE AND IMPACT" (19 May 2020, Bergen, Norway)
  • RI-PATHS FINAL EVENT (10 June 2020, Geneva, Switzerland)
  • THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT OF LARGE SCALE INVESTMENT IN SCIENCE (25-26 June 2020, University of Milan, Italy)
  • ICRI 2020 (30 September - 2 October 2020, Ottawa, Canada).

MORE INFORMATION ON RI-PATHS PROJECT AND EVENTS ON OUR WEBSITE:

WWW.RI-PATHS.EU

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