Researching research

New ways to measure the effectiveness of social sciences research

After 15 years conducting sustainability research in developing countries around the world, Brian Belcher, Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Research Effectiveness, wanted to know if there was a better way to evaluate the impact of social sciences research.

Belcher and his team at Victoria’s Royal Roads University examined multiple projects to identify the benefits delivered to local communities and pinpoint common indicators for defining and measuring their effectiveness. To augment their research, Belcher’s team developed a web-based monitoring tool that lets community members provide input on what they consider to be successful research outcomes.

By measuring the changes and results produced by numerous different projects, Belcher’s evaluation model is continually being refined and made more effective—and is being used not only to help researchers rethink how their projects are contributing to society, but also to let society know whether that research is truly successful.