Network for Advancing and Evaluating the Societal Impact of Science (AESIS) Impact of Social Sciences and Humanities Conference

On October 14-16, 2020, The AESIS Network hosted the ‘The Impact of Social Sciences and Humanities on Society 2020’, virtually to a global audience. RIC’s Future Skills Team was thrilled to attend the conference and hear from leaders in this field. The goal of this conference was to foster a discussion on assessing and stimulating the impact of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) through an interdisciplinary approach. The overarching message that came from the speakers was that in order to generate a profound impact of SSH on society, collaborations with parties from business, government and not-for-profits, and engaging with the broader public are all vital aspects in this process.

Frédéric Bouchard’s (Université de Montréal) opening plenary session on, Policies for Impact provided an interesting perspective into the importance of understanding how impacts work, which requires us to understand how knowledge works to shape social and technological reality. He also discussed how training postgraduate SSH students to be knowledge ambassadors does not require us to change our curriculum but rather to rethink the way in which we think of “professional development”. The skills researchers need to mobilise their knowledge across sectors and disciplines are the same that are perceived as needed in industry- critical thinking, adaptability, leadership communication, collaboration & teamwork. Wendy Cukier (Diversity Institute) also led an engaging session talking about developing new mechanisms to transition SSH graduates into employment by providing skills that bridge the graduate—employer gap. Lastly, David Sweeney (Research England) provided his recommendation for the science system, “as a scholar, you cannot evaluate your impact yourself….we need to do things iteratively with those that take our research forward.”

With the global COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been more important to discuss how research evidence can be transformed into practical knowledge for a variety of societal stakeholders. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly apparent that SSH research has an important role to play in identifying, assessing, and meeting objectives that touch upon matters such as accountability, equity and inclusiveness. This years AESIS conference fostered a worldwide discussion on the global societal challenges in Canada’s research eco-system and how we can make an impact.