Resource
Updated — June 28, 2021

Academic Incentives and Research Impact: Developing Reward and Recognition Systems to Better People’s Lives

Good practicesPosition papers  For:Research institutes

In this article, Jonathan Grant outlines nine cases that highlight examples of new academic incentives at multiple levels (e.g., system, institution, and individual level). These include:

  • System-Level Examples like the United Kingdom Research Excellence Framework (REF), which reviews the quality of research conducted at universities in the United Kingdom, including societal impact and research environment.
  • Institutional-Level Examples like Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, which centers societal needs in its research mission. Olin operates on six-year contracts, rather than tenure, and measures performance through student mentorship, sustaining the college, and impact outside of the college. Research groups are fully funded and not expected to seek external funding, and progress is measured on their scientific hypotheses rather than funding or publication record.
  • Individual-Level Examples include courses developed by the Policy Institute at King’s College London or the University of Massachusetts Public Engagement Project (PEP) to help researchers develop “impact literacy”. Impact literacy is the ability to translate research knowledge into societal impact.

Additionally, Grant provides examples of changes to the academic incentives systems that increase the recognition of societal impact in the research process. These examples include:

  • Encouraging reviewers to take a firm stance on including evidence of societal impact from candidates when serving on hiring, promotion, tenure and panels .
  • Encouraging candidates for promotion, tenure and hiring to include societal impact in their applications.

Grant J (2021). Academic Incentives and Research Impact: Developing Reward and Recognition Systems to Better People’s Lives. Link: https://academyhealth.org/publications/2021-02/changing-academic-research-social-good