How significant is impact in basic research? Should researchers do more in future to highlight the impact of their work on society and the economy? What are the differences between roles and strategies of research funding organisations with respect to the impact of the projects supported by them?
Answers to these and similar questions were debated by about 150 delegates and nearly 50 heads of research funding organisations from 45 countries at the annual meeting of the Global Research Council, an umbrella organisation of research funding organisations from around the world. The meeting took place in São Paulo, Brazil in early May. Austria was represented by FWF President Klement Tockner, who told his international counterparts that FWF does not base its grant decisions solely on the immediate impact expected from a project. “A balance has to be ensured between creativity and impact, focussing too much on the latter at an early stage would restrict diversity and innovative power in science,” explained Mr Tockner, while also pointing out that FWF will step up its efforts to shorten the distance between scholarly insights and potential implementation.
Different approaches and lively discussions notwithstanding, the conference participants agreed on a joint final Statement of Principles on Expectations of Societal and Economic Impact. The full text of the statement is available here.