Editorials

Measuring the social impact of research

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.323.7312.528 (Published 08 September 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:528

Difficult but necessary

  1. Richard Smith, editor
  1. BMJ

    The main aim of health research is to improve the health of people. Yet the performance of researchers tends to be measured by the scientific quality of their research rather than by its impact on health. This is unsatisfactory, even nonsensical, so a committee of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences is trying to devise a way of measuring the social impact of applied health research. Its first report was discussed at a recent meeting in Amsterdam,1 and the academy now plans to experiment with methods of measuring social impact.

    In an ideal world all research would be of high quality and have considerable social impact by improving health. But in the real world scientific quality and social impact do not always go together. Quality to scientists tends to mean originality of subject, thought, and method. Much research that scientists judge of high quality …

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