The mission of RI-PATHS project was to give funders and managers of research infrastructures (RIs) the tools to assess their impact on the economy and contribution to society. The project was funded by Horizon 2020 Coordination and Support Action and aimed to develop a framework describing the socio-economic impact of research infrastructures and their related financial investments. The objective was to devise a modular impact assessment framework adapted to a broad range of scientific domains and types of research infrastructures.
More specifically, RI-PATHS project carried out a comprehensive stocktaking exercise on the existing approaches for impact assessment of research infrastructures and mapped the current and future data gathering needs of the key stakeholder groups. Further a set of activities were devoted to the engagement of research infrastructures and their stakeholders in deliberating and co-creating shared visions on long-term impact pathways of how research infrastructure activities bring about societal and economic effects. The project team synthesised inputs collected through nine participatory workshops and developed an impact assessment framework that represents all major impact pathways of various types of research infrastructures. The findings were tested and further elaborated with seven pilot Research Infrastructures – ELIXIR, ALBA, DESY, CERN, EATRIS, CESSDA and Global BioImaging.
EFIS Centre acted as a coordinator of the RI-PATHS project consortium and methodological lead for developing final project outputs. The consortium included organisations with evaluation and research infrastructure policy expertise – CSIL, ESF, Fraunhofer ISI – and four dedicated research infrastructures – ELIXIR, ALBA, DESY and CERN – that tested the applicability and refined the conceptual advancements from a more practice-led viewpoint. Through this project our team furthered experience with designing and leading participatory co-design workshops and advanced skills for practical application of impact pathway methodology.
The main outcome of the project is an online toolkit that enables a user-friendly and navigable access to all key elements of the RI-PATHS impact assessment framework. The toolkit outlines 13 high-level impact pathways that narrates and visually depicts the socio-economic effects that research infrastructures have in three main areas of activities – enabling science, contributing to problem solving and fostering links between science and society. The toolkit also includes a filterable overview of the most frequently used indicators for impact assessment and guidance on the available approaches to reporting and impact analysis. The toolkit is accompanied by a downloadable guidebook that narrates the impact assessment logic, explains impact related terms, and puts them into context, as well as provides links to a range of real-life case studies.
The outcomes of RI-PATHS project contributed towards to a more common approach to impact assessment of research infrastructures at international level. Project work build on the findings of the Research Infrastructure Socio-Economic Impact Working group, being established by the OECD Global Science Forum, and involved other major key international players in this domain. The results have been presented at many international events and conferences, including the International Conference for Research Infrastructures (ICRI), Global Research Council workshop, events organised by ESFRI and the OECD. Beyond the conceptual contribution, RI-PATHS project has also been important in promoting the use of a more shared language and forging a community of practice on the topic of RI impact assessment.