Research impact

Research impact


The research and teaching of humanities and social science (HSS) scholars across Canada make diverse and vital contributions to society.  HSS scholarship expands and preserves our store of knowledge and understanding, provides students with crucial knowledge and skills; enriches and engages communities, contributes to the economy and business innovation, and helps ensure informed policy making at all levels.

HSS researchers are often asked to describe the ‘impacts’ of the work they do. While the evidence of this impact is, at one level, visible every day, defining, measuring, and comparing these impacts is an enormous challenge. The Federation has developed resources to support an informed conversation, (among scholars, universities and government agencies), about how to describe, assess and grow the impacts of HSS. 

Approaches to Assessing Impacts in the Humanities and Social Sciences 

This report builds on the 2014 Working Paper (below) by examining in greater detail the key factors that will determine the success of impact assessment efforts, with a focus on the humanities and social sciences. This report provides an overview of the intended benefits of impact assessment, the potential risks of flawed assessment systems, the characteristics of HSS research that affect efforts to assess impact, and the strengths and weaknesses of various assessment approaches. It concludes with a set of recommendations that describe a flexible, pluralistic and comprehensive approach to impact assessment.

Working Paper: The Impacts of Humanities and Social Sciences Research

This working paper proposes five broad ways that HSS research has impact and draws from international practices in proposing a suite of indicators that can be used to illuminate the impacts of HSS research in Canada.

Blog series

Following the publication of the Federation’s report, “Approaches to Assessing Impacts in the Humanities and Social Sciences,” we have reached out to other members of the research community to share their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities associated with assessing scholarly impacts. It is our hope that this series of blogs and our new report will help support a productive conversation in the HSS community about the important topic of scholarly impact assessment.

2016 Annual Conference

At the Federation’s 2016 Annual Conference, David Phipps, Director of Research Services at York University, chaired a workshop entitled "Demonstrating the community impacts of the humanities and social sciences,” which examined how to assess and demonstrate the impacts of HSS research. See information on the workshop and watch the video here.

Other resources

  • LSE Impact of Social Science blog: A long-running, active blog covering a broad range of impact-related topics.
  • A Canadian research-impact network featuring supports for researchers and a rich collection of Canadian impact stories
  • SSHRC Research Stories: A searchable database of stories of SSHRC-funded research.
  • Evalhum: A French research initiative focused on evaluating research in the humanities and social sciences
  • ACUMEN: A European research collaboration exploring how the work of researchers is assessed and communicated
  • European Network for Research Evaluation in the Social Sciences and Humanities: A project supported by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology program that seeks to enable the social sciences and humanities to better demonstrate their true place in academia.