AESIS Virtual Conference Looks at Social Science’s Societal Impact

The Network for Advancing and Evaluating Societal Impact of Science, or AESIS, will hold the next edition of its Impact of Social Sciences and Humanities on Society conference series on October 14-16. The meeting, which was pre-COVID scheduled to be held in person in Ontario, Canada, will be conducted virtually albeit from Ottawa.

The AESIS Network is a collection of individual members that include evaluators, policymakers, research councils, funders, knowledge exchange experts, and “other stakeholders of societal impact of science.” The network is managed by the Netherlands-based ScienceWorks.

The last iteration of the series took place in the European cities of Cardiff and Copenhagen and later in Washington, D.C. In bringing the session to Canada, organizers note the country’s success in promoting its “research intensity” to a global audience. “The three granting councils [Social Science and Humanities (SSHRC); Natural Science and Engineering; and Canadian Institutes of Health Research], alongside other organisations and universities, have been aiming to evaluate (funded) performance on not only academic impact, but also on indicators addressing future challenges, the engagement of indigenous communities, and attention for equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

A number of Canadian organizations, including SSHRC, Research Impact Canada, York and Ryerson universities, and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences are partners of the conference, as are some private enterprises like SAGE Publishing, the parent of Social Science Space.

The program committee is similarly broad, with McMaster University philosopher Sandra Lapointe; David Phipps, executive director of research and innovation Services at York; Amy Cook, senior director of knowledge mobilization for CIFAR; Susan Morris, director of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; Tim Wilson, executive director of research grants & partnerships for SSHRC; Steven Liss, vice-president research and innovation at Ryerson; and Gabriel Miller, president of the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

AESIS argues that “there might not be a more timely moment to discuss the societal impact of social sciences and humanities (SSH) than this fall. The global COVID-19 pandemic has posed and is still posing societal challenges that call for (interdisciplinary) research evidence that can be transformed into practical knowledge for a variety of societal stakeholders.

“At the same time, it is becoming increasingly apparent that SSH research has an important role to play in identifying, assessing and meeting objectives that touch upon matters such as accountability, equity and inclusiveness. In all, it seems that in these unique times, ‘change’ is the new key word. We and our partners feel that in order to create a positive connotation to this word, it is of the utmost importance to assess, facilitate, and enhance the impact of SSH on society.”

 The conference will start with efforts to both map and assess the impact of SSH, aiming to define it within different segments of society, and then finding ways to measure impact. This will be followed by examining opportunities for collaboration among all stakeholders, scientific and societal, academic and private. Lastly, the conference organizers plan interactive discussions on which skills can optimize impact for public benefit. Targeted recommendations for the Canadian science policy system, and beyond, will be made.

Cost to attend is €150.00 (CAN$235) for existing AESIS members and partners, and €195.00 (CAN$300) for non-members. To register or for more details, click here.

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