Measuring and evaluating economic impact of publicly-funded research centres

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Brosnan, Stephen
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University College Cork
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The aim of this thesis is to develop and test frameworks and tools to measure and evaluate the economic impact of publicly funded research centres, thus addressing calls from policymakers for greater accountability and justification for investment of public funding towards research activities. In addition to developing impact measurements tools, the Research Impact Index (RII) is tested using a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded research centre. Testing the tool facilitates the identification of strengths and weaknesses of the framework and tools before large scale roll-out of the RII. The development of robust tools and frameworks to measure and evaluate the economic impact of publicly funded research centres requires conceptual clarity on research impact. Research impact can mean different things to different people. Therefore, this thesis offers conceptual clarity on what constitutes an impact through a thematic analysis exploring the meanings and conceptualisations of research impact across the research sector in Ireland. Following this, the thesis contributes to the development of a novel framework for measuring the economic impact of publicly funded research centres. The IMPACTS framework (Impact Measurement and Performance Assessment of Centres for Technology and Science) adopts a systems-based approach to research impact assessment which views research centres as important cogs within an innovation system. An important new, and to date underappreciated, element in this framework is the inclusion of a research centre's contribution to the overall innovation system, while simultaneously identifying the strength of the system is an important input and platform for a research centre's success. The study uses data generated though two survey instruments, the Research Centre Impact Questionnaire and the Industry Partner Impact Questionnaire. The questionnaires were designed to facilitate the assessment of research centre impact that minimises common methodological challenges, such as issues of attribution, additionality and time lags. The quantitative and qualitative data from the questionnaire will be combined to construct a multidimensional index to measure and evaluate research centre impact. The development of the IMPACTS framework and Research Impact Index (RII) will result in a step change in measurement of the performance of publicly funded research centres, enabling them to optimise structures and ways of working to maximise economic impact. In addition, it will help funding bodies select and oversee funded centres to increase the efficiency in conversion of investments into impact for industry partners and the regional and national economy. Findings will be disseminated to science policy practitioners, funding bodies and research centres management teams.
IMPACTS framework , Research impact , Evaluation , Thematic analysis , Composite indicator , Research impact index
Brosnan, S. 2019. Measuring and evaluating economic impact of publicly-funded research centres. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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