New Working Paper: Finding New Ways to Maximize HSS Research Impact

Monday, October 6, 2014


Matthew McKean, Policy Analyst, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences has been hard at work on an ambitious research impact project. Our new working paper, entitled “The Impacts of Humanities and Social Science Research,” launches today at Concordia University in Montreal at the “Mobilizing Knowledge for Social Innovation” colloquium, organized by the Fonds de recherche du Québec, as part of the prestigious Entretiens Jacques Cartier.

Why, you ask, should we worry about defining research impact and why should we attempt to measure it?  Because in this era of austerity budgets and increasing competition for federal research money, it’s imperative for the humanities and social science community to develop its own research impact metrics and to demonstrate its value beyond the confines of the university. If we don’t, external parties will define our impact and value for us and, in the process, our work could become marginalized or subsumed in metrics that inaccurately reflect what we do.

But it’s also bigger than that. In a world that’s changing rapidly and growing more complicated as well as more inter-connected, it’s more important than ever for humanities and social science researchers to collaborate with non-academic partners and policy-makers to address the complex range of issues currently facing Canadians and the world. We hope the discussion about research impact metrics will help to expand the scope of scholarly research as well as bring people together to work towards common goals.

Research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences contributes to a free and democratic society; it affects our quality of life; and it leads to new knowledge. Research that generates new knowledge both inside and outside universities, that improves subsequent research, as well as influences the decisions that shape people’s lives, communities, governance, and the environment, can be defined as having impact.

Many in our community are still not convinced by the research impact agenda. But we intend to stay ahead of the movement and we expect that this initiative will generate a great deal of excitement. Above all, we hope it will help to galvanize humanities and social science researchers, and the universities that employ them, into finding new ways and incentives to mobilize their research and engage with students, fellow researchers, decision-makers, as well as local, national, and international communities.

The project was conceived and developed by an Interdisciplinary Advisory Committee of accomplished academics and researchers as well as consultations with stakeholders and individual researchers in the community. Together they identified existing international, cross-disciplinary metrics, devised new “baskets” of indicators, developed an overall framework for the project, and commissioned the research and writing of the report, which exists now as a living document on the Federation’s website.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions, comments, or suggestions or if you’d like to collaborate. In the meantime, stay tuned for updates. Correspondence should be sent to: Matthew McKean ( or to the Federation’s general mailbox (


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