Research Impact Responsibilities: Policy Alternatives for Canada
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How research evidence comes to have impacts in academic and nonacademic arenas is increasingly becoming a focal point in scholarly discourse across scholarly disciplines and jurisdictional boundaries. However, despite the growing recognition that research impact is a product of collaboration among a variety of research stakeholders, researchers remain saddled with the majority of impact responsibilities. The purpose of this policy analysis is to utilize the empirical research and contemporary politics concerning research impact to outline policy alternatives for how impact responsibilities can be reconceptualized in Canada. I begin the analysis with an overview of influential and thought-provoking research impact milestones related to legislation, research funding, and media coverage. I then outline several publication and evaluation milestones related to research impact, current system characteristics and impact constraints for social science research in Canada, and salient political viewpoints related to research impact for the relevant stakeholder groups. Four policy alternatives are presented: (1) to let present trends continue undisturbed (i.e., the status quo), (2) to provide inducements for the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada to establish a knowledge mobilization and research impact department, (3) to undertake regulatory action on all Canadian universities who receive the Research Support Fund, and (4) to establish multifaceted interventions for enhancing research impact. Each alternative is evaluated across five criteria: efficiency, political viability, operational feasibility, robustness and improvability, and equitable distribution of responsibilities. Based on this outcome analysis, I make a recommendation regarding the optimal policy alternative.