The societal impact of university: a systematic literature review on what, why and how?
Responsibility of (Applied) Research
Nicola Francesco Dotti et al, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium
Single presentation - 30 Minutes
One of the main questions regarding (responsible) research concerns the reflection on how to ''define'' and ''measure'' its ''societal impact''. The interest for the societal impact of universities has emerged as a reaction for the narrow, economic-oriented debate on the ‘third mission’ of universities emphasising the importance of technology transfer and university-industry cooperation. While the societal impact aims to include also non-economic dimensions such as environmental, social and cultural ones; there is no agreement on its definition due to its multidimensional nature. Therefore, decision-makers although using the concept in their discourse on engaged or responsible universities, have difficulties in implementing it as an indicator (or incentive) within evaluation frameworks.
The paper aims to provide a systematic overview of all different aspects of the scientific debate around the societal impact of universities. Based on the What-Why-Who-Where-How-When framework, this paper revises the existing scientific literature available in Scopus in the period 1975-2018. Findings suggest that the notion of societal impact is linked to different ways of organising universities rather than to the types of impacts, shifting the focus from outcomes to processes. This shift aims (or is expected) to change the institutional responsibility improving the university governance and organisation. Finally, the review identifies existing gaps and emerging fields for future institutional research.