Assessing Policy and Practice Impacts of Social Science Research
The Application of the Payback Framework to Assess the Future of Work Programme
Published in: Research Evaluation, v. 20, no. 3, Sep. 2011, p. 201-209
The UK Economic and Social Research Council funded exploratory evaluation studies to assess the wider impacts on society of various examples of its research. The Payback Framework is a conceptual approach previously used to evaluate impacts from health research. We tested its applicability to social sciences by using an adapted version to assess the impacts of the Future of Work (FoW) programme. We undertook key informant interviews, a programme-wide survey, user interviews and four case studies of selected projects. The FoW programme had significant impacts on knowledge, research and career development. While some principal investigators (PIs) could identify specific impacts of their research, PIs generally thought they had influenced policy in an incremental way and informed the policy debate. The study suggests progress can be made in applying an adapted version of the framework to the social sciences. However, some impacts may be inaccessible to evaluation, and some evaluations may occur too early or too late to capture the impact of research on a constantly changing policy environment.