Scientific findings from publicly-funded research are increasingly expected to demonstrate both scientific impact and societal relevance. Scientific impact is associated with achieving recognition within the community of scientists; while societal relevance is related to the capacity to respond to the needs of non-academic audiences. Despite the advocacy of policy discourses, the pursuit and achievement of this dual mission face important challenges. The logics governing the production of research findings with scientific impact may substantially differ from (and often conflict with) the mechanisms underlying the generation of findings that achieve societal relevance.
This paper investigates individual and process-context factors that contribute to reconcile these two missions. First, we investigate whether scientists who exhibit a pro-social motivation for conducting research - i.e., promoting the interest of the community and the desire to benefit other people - are particularly capable to achieve greater performance in both scientific impact and societal relevance. Second, we examine whether engagement in “productive interactions” with non-academic actors contribute to attenuate the potential tensions between scientific and societal goals, by shaping scientists’ cognition, skills and attitudes.
The data used in this paper is based on: (i) primary data from a large-scale survey of Spanish scientists and (ii) secondary data from scientometric and news media sources. The selection of researchers to be surveyed is based on the records of authors who published an article indexed in Web of Science (WoS) within the period 2012-2014, and were affiliated to Spanish public research organisations (universities, PROs, hospitals). This sampling strategy resulted in a frame list of 57,406 scientists, and a total of 11,992 valid questionnaires. Secondary data provides information on citations to publications (WoS) to capture scientific impact, and on publication mentions in news media sources (blogs, policy briefs and news) as a proxy to capture societal relevance.