What is social impact?


The review of the State of Scientific Research in Finland approached the impact of research on society via the roles of science in society.

The review on the state of scientific research in Finland published by the Academy of Finland in 2016 states that “The broader impact of research emerges as a result of someone taking up and using research-based knowledge or expertise, or as a result of the changes that take place in society by virtue of such knowledge and expertise.” The review further states that because the objects, aims and interfaces of research with the rest of society vary, the non-scientific impact of research is varied by definition.

Because the impacts of research on society are varied, in order to analyse them, the review approaches them via the mutually complementary roles of science in society.

The roles of science in society

The review defines four different roles of science in society:

Human understanding and world view – research-based knowledge and abilities build, sustain and develop concepts and meanings. This also incorporates concepts about people themselves and societies as part of the surrounding world.

Wealth and prosperity – research-based knowledge and abilities open material prospects for sustaining and increasing the wellbeing of people and societies.

Basis for decision-making – research-based knowledge and abilities not only underpin societal decision-making, they also ease individual’s choices. Science as a basis for decision-making offers a starting point for decision-making, policies and problem-solving.

Practice development – the fourth role of science in society means that research-based knowledge and abilities generate, sustain and advance professional competence in demanding tasks that require specialist expertise.

This text is based on the English summary review State of Scientific Research in Finland 2016 – Special theme: Broader Impact of Research in Society published by the Academy of Finland.

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