Distinguishing science communication & popularization from research-based public interventions

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Integrating the societal impact of university research (SIUR) into research policy and evaluation is increasingly advocated - based on the conviction that traditional conceptions of academic quality insufficiently address how research can excel. Calls for the expansion of objects and activities considered in assessment models have led to the development of new methods. Altmetrics, for instance, track the “popular” dissemination of published outcomes, while methods to map impact pathways identify the productive interactions researchers have with societal stakeholders to evaluate SIUR. Balancing feasibility with precision remains an issue, and existing methods tend to fall short in one of them. Hence, there is need for methodological expansion. We demonstrate how presence in the written press offers a partial indication of SIUR. Discussing a case study conducted in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking Northern region of Belgium, we first demonstrate the objects referred to by the written press in relation to university research. Subsequently, we distinguish between coverage of, operationalizations of and interventions by research in the public debate. Based on this taxonomy, we argue that an extension of altmetrics to press coverage has potential, but operationalization must differentiate between popular attention for research and its outcomes and active research-based contributions to public debates.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication18th International Conference on Scientometrics & Informetrics
PublisherInternational Society for Informetrics and Scientometrics
ISBN (Electronic)9789080328228, 9080328227
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021
Event18th International Conference of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics - Leuven, Belgium
Duration: 12 Jul 202115 Jul 2021


Conference18th International Conference of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics
Abbreviated title(ISSI 2021)
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partially supported by a travel grant from the Erasmus Mundus Masters Programme in Language and Communication Technologies to Borisova and by grant 360-70-282 of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to Redeker. We would like to thank Robin Cooper and three anonymous reviewers for their very useful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 18th International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics, ISSI 2021. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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