Newsletter, Issue 2 January 2019

Project timeline

As the RI-PATHS project enters its second year of activity, partners have explored several methodological tools and methods to improve the evaluation of the socio- economic impact of research infrastructures (RIs). The consortium has carried out a stocktaking exercise that included a literature review, a widely distributed online survey to RIs and interviews with policymakers. The results of these activities are informing the development of a modular and comprehensive IA framework for socio- economic impact assessment (IA) of RIs. These outcomes are also being discussed during the participatory workshops with RI representatives.

Outcomes from the stocktaking activities

The stocktaking exercise comprised a literature review, a survey to RI managers and a set of interviews with experts and policymakers. These activities aimed to review the existing methodologies in use for the socio-economic impact assessment of RIs, as well as to discuss the perceived gaps, needs and challenges.

The literature review highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the existing approaches and methods for impact assessment of RIs. It made a systematic assessment based on six evaluation criteria (reliability, validity, accuracy, cost/time needed, relevance for policymakers and RI managers), and focused on six main approaches identified as the most pertinent and relevant for the IA of RI. Among other findings, the latter emphasised the importance of mapping all the impacts occurring during the entire lifecycle of an RI discovering the causal mechanisms that link short-term outputs and outcomes with longer term impacts.

The online survey collected replies from 191 RIs – mostly EU based and covering different fields of activities – to gather evidence on their experience in carrying out/being involved in socio-economic impact assessments. Results showed that the current practice (40% of respondents) and interest (24%) towards carrying out socio- economic impact assessment are widespread. Reporting practices vary amongst the respondents, although mostly they rely on the collection of key performance indicators (KPIs) (49% of respondents). However, a relatively significant share of respondents is used to collect indicator data (31%) or core impact indicator (9%) which are relevant for impact assessment purposes.

Through a set of 34 semi-structured interviews the project team discussed with policy makers and funding agencies their information needs, concerns and research questions. Discussions with these stakeholders showed that although the primary driver of RI assessment before a funding decision is the assessment of the scientific case, there is limited evidence of systematic implementation of socio-economic impact assessment. Interviewees were aware that RIs contribute to generating a wide range of impacts on society and the economy, and the majority of interviewees supports the idea of having a harmonised general IA framework which is developed in a modular way in order to adapt to the RI specificities.

In the light on these consultations, the RI-PATHS consortium is now working on the structuring and refinement of a modular and comprehensive impact assessment framework of RIs. The IA framework is envisioned as a guidance tool for policymakers, funders and RI managers for better planning, scoping, accounting for and eventually measuring various impacts that arise from the investment during all the stages of RI lifecycle.

ESFRI Workshop – Monitoring of RIs, periodic update of Landmarks, use of KPIs

On 19-20 November, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) held a workshop on monitoring of research infrastructures. It addressed the need to establish proper methods for the periodic update on the State of Play of ESFRI Landmarks and to foster their long-term sustainability. It drew from the Pilot Periodic Review Exercise carried out with four Landmarks and in line with the Council Conclusions of 29 May 2018, which mentions ESFRI as the strategic forum to develop a common methodology for monitoring research infrastructures, including KPIs to be adopted on a voluntary basis by RIs, and stress ESFRI role in the development of the EOSC.

Two members of the RI-PATHS consortium presented during this workshop. Silvia Vignetti from CSIL contributed to the panel on “Definition and harmonisation of RI costs and financial flow needs for RIs through the lifecycle”, discussing feasible ways to look at different RIs, and drawing guidelines for cost estimation of RIs. Jelena Angelis from EFIS Centre took part in the panel “Use of KPIs – a useful tool for implementation, operation & sustainability”, which looked into the merits and limits of KPIs and practices and reflections of the different RIs on the use of KPIs.

The results of the workshop will feed into the activities of the ESFRI ad hoc Working Group on Monitoring of Research Infrastructures Performance, also in view of interacting with the European Commission High-Level Expert Group on assessment of the progress of ESFRI and other World Class Research Infrastructures towards implementation and long-term sustainability.

The first round of participatory workshops

In the first round of participatory workshops convened in November-December 2018, the RI-PATHS consortium took stock of the existing approaches of socio-economic IA with stakeholders from different types of RIs and tried to explore possible options for their future improvement. During the workshops held at CERN, ALBA and ELIXIR, the participants reflected on the motivations, existing practices and limitations they encounter and on that basis suggested which areas the future work in the RI-PATHS projects should focus on. Against different backgrounds, directors, policy officers and impact assessment specialists of RIs pointed out which impact areas are, in their view, the most important to monitor in the political domain and through which specific pathways they see the related impacts evolve in practice.

In summary, the participants expressed a strong interest in methodologies going beyond mere economic impacts, while, at the same time, they admitted that those continue to constitute the core of the current IA activities. Furthermore, the participants emphasised that during the subsequent steps of the RI-PATHS project choices will have to be made between various possible approaches to offer sufficiently concrete guidance on applicable methodologies. Hence, the RI-PATHS project will continue to pursue a broad-based approach but, in the following round of participatory workshops, will focus on selected impact areas for an in-depth methodological consideration. The full outcome report from the first round of workshops will be made available in February 2019.

Upcoming participatory workshops

During the subsequent round of workshops planned in early May 2019, the RI-PATHS consortium will engage with stakeholders from different types of RIs in an in-depth exploration of possible IA methodologies. As the suitability of methodologies differs according to the overall impact area (assessment objective) as well as the concrete pathway (object of study), the planned workshops will be pursuing different avenues in both concept and substance. Different from the exploratory first round, these follow-up workshops will focus on a real exchange of experience on the feasibility, reliability and utility of specific indicators and methods of collecting relevant information for impact assessments. Depending on the pathway under study, some of the workshops will focus on quantitative and others on qualitative methodologies. Wherever applicable, exchanges with parallel exercises and efforts in the same field will be sought.

The second round of workshops will be held:

  • 8 May 2019 at DESY (Hamburg, Germany) with a focus on quantifiable economic impacts of RIs. Learn more
  • 9 May 2019 at ELIXIR (Cambridge, UK) with a focus on new ways of documenting network effects in research, innovation and training. Learn more
  • 10 May 2019 at ALBA (Barcelona, Spain) with a focus on exploring impact-relevant interactions between RIs and users. Learn more

MERIL launches new Advanced Data Module

The MERIL-2 project has launched the new Advanced Data Module, which collects data on the scientific and technological outputs of RIs. The module comprises 21 data fields covering information on costs, funding, human resources, innovation and other impact–related parameters.

The information will serve to portray the active role of RIs in a broader societal context and display metrics on RI outputs, which are relevant for European policymakers. With this third and final data module, MERIL paves the way for a first comprehensive effort in gathering policy-relevant information at European level. Future work will consist of refining this module by aligning it with the outcomes of the RI-PATHS project.

Join the conversation on the impact of biodata on entrepreneurial ecosystems across Europe

ELIXIR has teamed up with Prof. Hannes Rothe from the Freie Universitaet Berlin to explore the entrepreneurial ecosystem of publicly available data resources. Following up the publication of the report on ‘Public data resources as a business model for SMEs’, , they want to explore further how start-ups and SMEs create value from publicly available bioinformatics resources and showcase to society, industry and funders their impact for a sustainable and flourishing life science sector. Read more at www.biodata.startup-ecosystem.org. If your company fits this contact biodata@startup-ecosystem.org

The RI-PATHS project online

The communication during the first year of RI-PATHS project has been focused on awareness raising about the socio-economic impact assessment of RIs and the main objectives of the project. We are glad to see that there is a growing audience of visitors of the project website and that the option to subscribe to our newsletter is also widely used.

In total, there have been 1220 unique visitors of the website in the first year of the project implementation. Around 20% of all website viewers are returning visitors. The website has been visited from almost every EU Member State and many Associated countries. Germany, UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Spain are among the countries with the highest number of views. The project website has attracted visitors also from the other parts of the world (approx. 80 unique visits). Most active third country visitors have been from the US, Canada, Australia and China.

The first round of participatory workshops attracted representatives from almost 50 diverse RIs. We are very pleased to see the high interest and dedication of RI stakeholders in exploring, discussing and contributing to this important topic.

Calendar of events

Past events where RI-PATHS project was presented


ELIXIR gave a presentation and submitted a poster at the 12th meeting of the G7’s Group of Senior Officials (GSO) on Research Infrastructures, that took place in Oxford (UK) on 5-7 November 2018. ELIXIR has been listed for a number of years on the GSO’s Roadmap of Global Research Infrastructures. The poster showed how ELIXIR aligned against each of the 14 Criteria of the GSO’s Framework for Global Research Infrastructures, while the talk specifically focused on “Criterion 14 - Monitoring socio- economic impact”, in which work under the RI-PATHS project was mentioned.


On 12-13 November 2018, the League of European Accelerator- based Photon Sources (LEAPS) celebrated the first Plenary Meeting in Hamburg. The event gathered more than 150 representatives from the 16 member facilities of LEAPS, coming from 10 different countries, and counting with the presence of the directors of all the facilities. The RI- PATHS project was presented at the poster session as well as one of the pilot projects’ presentation, devoted to impact assessment methodology.


Last year, CSIL’s Summer School on Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of Investment projects festured participants from 18 different countries, along with lecturers from EU and international organisations who joined CSIL’s staff and experts to bring their experience on measuring the impact of investment projects through the application of CBA. A specific session was dedicated Research Infrastructure.

CSIL’s team is now preparing the IX edition of the school, which will be held in Milan on 9-13 September 2019. This year the program will include additional courses with a focus on research, development and innovation. Applications will open in March 2019. Find out more here



  • ESFRI RIS-EOSC LIAISON WORKSHOP (30 January 2019, London, UK) Learn more
  • RI-PATHS PARTICIPATORY WORKSHOP AT DESY (8 May 2019, Hamburg, Germany) Learn more
  • RI-PATHS PARTICIPATORY WORKSHOP AT ELIXIR (9 May 2019, Cambridge, UK) Learn more
  • RI-PATHS PARTICIPATORY WORKSHOP AT ALBA (10 May 2019, Barcelona, Spain) Learn more



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