Williams VL, Eiseman E, Landree E, Adamson DM, eds., Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2009 Feb; :1-174
The evaluation of research impact is a topic of enduring interest to research funders and performers of research. Research impact refers to the contribution of research activities to desired societal outcomes, such as improved health, environment, economic, and social conditions. In recent years, this interest has grown because of governments' desire to understand the impact of publicly funded research for the purpose of budgeting and resource allocation decisions, both nationally and internationally. In the United States, the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) (Pub. L. No. 103-62) and the 2002 Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) are the most recent manifestations of the public's concern about the payoff of federally funded research. These policies, which require all federal programs to conduct assessments of their own performance, present special challenges for research programs because of the methodological difficulty of measuring the impact of research. The difficulties associated with tracking and measuring the societal outcomes of research has caused this area of evaluation to lag other types of evaluation that seek to assess other dimensions of research, such as quality, relevance, and productivity. Despite these difficulties, approaches to evaluating the impact of research have progressed substantially in the past decade. Technometrics, sociometrics, bibliometrics, value-mapping, expert review, and case studies represent both quantitative and qualitative means of assessing the benefits of research to industry, government, and the public. Federal agencies often employ multiple types of expert review to evaluate research impact. In the past few decades, use of expert panels has become commonplace for evaluating larger units, such as research groups, institutes, and research programs. In addition to evaluating scientific merit, these panels often assess the socioeconomic impact of research.