By Maria Jose Herrero Villa
Head of International Unit for Research and Knowledge Transfer, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Now that we are facing the final stretch of the REVALORISE+ project, it is a good point to look back, observe and be aware of the new challenges regarding the importance of research in social sciences and humanities.
Let me elaborate, on the one hand, three years of the project performance plus another couple from when the EC issued the call which, in case of any doubts for sceptics, corroborated the relevance of the topic, and on the other, some unexpected events where the importance of these fields was evidenced. So, I wonder about the impact of the Revalorise+ project, which, ironically in my mind, it is a good example of valorisation in social sciences.
A recent workshop regarding the topic, run in YUFE (Young Universities for the Future of Europe) Alliance among knowledge transfer practitioners, where the Revalorise+ project was on the table, revealed the theme’s momentum. This Alliance gathers 10 research-intensive European universities with a flipped approach in the knowledge transfer function and is very focused on impact. Interesting conversations and ideas emerged during the workshop, some of which are included herein. Regardless of the acknowledgement of the topic among researchers and university managers, the intangibility, particularities, and shorter monetary pay-off of these fields in comparison to STEM or more traditional/formal knowledge transfer are recognised as strong barriers. In addition, of course to the ordinary barriers such as lack of incentives, merit and career contributions, awareness, capacity, and entrepreneurial skills among researchers.
The practitioners’ perception regarding their capacity to undertake these fields in the knowledge transfer function is surprisingly reasonable even though it is recognized as difficult to deal with and not the priority of the KTO, as there is not a clear methodology to address it or a regular routine.
Thus, the general opinion is that academic staff, KTO/University managers, and KTO practitioners need to be addressed in parallel but differently.
Obviously, these are just general observations as the workshop participants only had the chance to exchange exploratory positions, opinions, and experiences. Herein are the main items that practitioners agreed they could act on:
– The Lighthouse Stories are really stimulating for anyone, each reader would take different learnings and inspirations to the extent that some of them embrace the challenging citizens’ engagement. Sharing and dissemination among the YUFE universities. The impact of the Lighthouse Stories report for the Revalorise+ project is undeniable, but furthermore, it stimulates the consideration of similar practices at the Alliance level.
– The need for a different approach to social sciences and humanities researchers including language and terms used. Many of them are opposed to any monetary or mercantilist shadows around their knowledge and research results; they want an altruistic impact from their work. In this sense, Revalorise+, training materials with an Impact Canvas model is a good framework.
– Awareness approaches often differ between researchers (PhD included) and KTO/university managers. Thus, convincing engagement arguments should be carefully communicated and adapted. Additionally, training activities need to be customised to target researchers and PhDs as their circumstances, time, and demands are specific.
In my opinion, while human capacities are being questioned by machines, robots, bots, and AI, social sciences and humanities becomes increasingly important. There is a lot to be done; this has just started. Revalorise+ project pioneers lead the way.