DARE (Diversity Approach for Research Evaluation) is an approach to the evaluation of research initiatives, especially looking at the interplay of fundamental knowledge and knowledge applied to practical solutions. Policy makers increasingly aim at understanding the frail connection between our growing knowledge of fundamental processes in nature and our ability to use this knowledge to develop solutions to societal problems and challenges.
We can identify two main reasons why the interplay between fundamental knowledge and applied solutions is difficult to achieve. First, the fundamental knowledge on which specific applications are built needs to be adapted to the specific conditions in which that fundamental knowledge is being used. Such adaptation requires detailed knowledge of both the fundamental knowledge itself and of the context of the application of that knowledge to a practical solution. In addition to the context, the relevant knowledge base will require the combination of diverse types of knowledge, originating from a variety of scientific fields, as well as non-academic expertise. Second, the processes by which these different types of knowledge are combined involve the collaboration of many different stakeholders, from different, even distant, organisations. Therefore, the problem of connecting scientific knowledge for solutions to practical problems can be interpreted as the challenge of orchestrating diverse social groups, used to operating in different ways, to share and combine the information and knowledge required to develop new applications.
DARE offers a framework and a set of techniques to study whether and how specific initiatives help to spur the interactions between fundamental research and applied problems. Our approach aims to show how a specific research initiative, such as a centre or project, fosters the creation of interactions across different stakeholders, and how the study of such interactions can be used to track their potential for generating socially beneficial impacts. The key concepts of the approach presented here are the diversity of the stakeholders in the network created by a research initiative, and the coherence between them that is achieved as a consequence of that given research initiative. It defines and operationalises the notions of diversity and coherence across different relevant domains: in terms of their cognitive background, position in the organisation, social networks, institutional norms and geographical locations.
Although DARE addresses the way in which research generates impacts, it differs from mainstream research evaluation and impact assessment practices in two main respects. First, we do not focus on the identification and valuation of specific project outcomes and impacts. Instead we examine the processes that lead to the application of research results. While assessing these impacts and tracing them is possible, they cannot be attributed only to the research effort being assessed. Thus, from a policy perspective the results of assessing outputs and impacts are unlikely to be timely and the specific role played by research is indeterminate. Instead, conducting evaluations as the research and application processes unfold allows us to use the evaluation results to improve the research policy implementation, to inform short and medium term policy decisions, and make management adjustments.
Second, our approach does not treat these processes as a linear process in which research results are “transferred” downstream to actors who are progressively closer to application until they are finally transformed into applications. In a linear view the focus is on pairs of actors involved in a transfer down the chain of linked stages, and the differences between these that can create breaks in the linear chain of knowledge transfer. Instead, our approach regards interactions across disparate networks stakeholders as the key factor for generation of applicable knowledge.
Until now DARE has been used to track interaction in biomedical research project as shown in the cases represented on this website. Indeed, for biomedical research to contribute to the generation of health benefits there is a need to bring together diverse actors. Medical solutions in the form of, for instance, new diagnostics and therapies, typically take a long time to be fully developed and implemented, often many years after the research investments have been made. By charting the interactions of the key actors it is possible to see whether the conditions are in place for future impact to have the opportunity to occur.
More information can be found in several publications:
- The User Guide about how to use this approach is available here.
- The diversity framework can be found in papers by Stirling, Rafols and Meyer and Rafols.
- The rationale behind the use of the proximity dimensions in Research Evaluation can be found in the paper by Molas Gallart et al..