Uncovering clues to the societal impact of research

Elsevier, Elsevier Connect, November 22, 2018
Lucy Goodchild van Hilten

An estimated 821 million people worldwide were undernourished in 2017, representing 11 percent of the global population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 aims to end hunger, but despite years of decline in undernourishment, it’s on the rise again.

Research is one way to address this problem. About 6,500 people at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands are working on a range of sustainability issues, including tackling hunger. From developing innovative agriculture technologies to working out ways to reduce food waste and increase security, they aim to contribute to achieving the UN’s goal of zero hunger by 2030.

Influencing society and policymakers is an important part of this. But how can researchers measure the contribution their work is making to achieve a goal like zero hunger? In other words, how can we measure the societal impact of science? And what can an institution do to increase its impact on society and policy?