Despite three decades’ progress in the ability to conceptualize, measure and evaluate research impacts, a gaping hole remains in research evaluation methods and technique: the ability to evaluate the sociotechnical impacts of research. Economic evaluations and quality evaluations have progressed nicely, but techniques for measuring impacts on society or impacts on technological evolution have not kept pace. Part of this gap is due to difficulties in building analytical tools for analysis of sociotechnical impacts (Averch, 1991). Professional researchers have developed powerful economic tools to measure economic impacts of research, sophisticated bibliometric tools to measure validly the impacts of research outputs on scientific fields and the course of science, and peer review techniques continue to be refined and employed in assessing projects, programs and proposals. But there has been remarkably little progress in the ability to measure directly, systematically, and validly the impacts of research on sociotechnical change. The limitations of tools for understanding the sociotechnical impacts of science are not surprising when one considers the difficulty of the task and the adolescent stage in the development of research evaluation.
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