Resolving tensions of research utilization: The value of a usability-based approach

Paul Benneworth, Julia Olmos-Peñuela
This is a position paper addressing the debate about the nature of how research is utilised and measured that questions the prevalent practice of measuring terminal use transactions (TUTs) – i.e. patents, spin-outs or license income – for measuring research impact. In so doing, our starting point is that a science system is a progressive business in which any piece of research builds on a whole set of antecedent research and knowledge. We contend that the extent of research utilisation across this science system is determined by the extent to which antecedent research can feed into research that ultimately feeds into these TUTs. We introduce the concept of ‘valorizers’ as research users that valorise knowledge by transforming it into the socio-economic domain, for the purpose of defining the ‘usability’ of antecedent research as the ease with which it may contribute to research that valorizers are able to absorb. We argue that the flow into the pool of ‘usable knowledge’ is ultimately dependent on the extent to which newly created scientific knowledge is cognate with valorizer needs and that more consideration need to be given to the processes by which research creates knowledge that is usable through the course of the research cycle.