SIAMPI approach

The SIAMPI consortium developed indicators in three categories of Productive Interactions to assess social impact of research projects, research programmes and research funding instruments. Assessing the scientific quality of research is common practice. The question how to assess the impact of research on society is still largely unanswered. The SIAMPI project (2009-2011) is envisaged to develop indicators to assess the productive interactions between science and society.

SIAMPI develops indicators for social impact in three categories of Productive Interactions between researchers and relevant societal stakeholders:

  • Direct interactions, in the sense of “personal” interactions involving direct contacts between humans;
  • Indirect interactions through some kind of material “carrier” (publication of texts, exhibitions, models, films);
  • Financial interactions occurring when potential stakeholders engage in an economic exchange.

In this project, we understand 'Productive Interactions' as exchanges between researchers and stakeholders in which knowledge is produced and valued that is both scientifically robust and socially relevant. There is not always a clear distinction between ‘productive interactions’ and social impact, because the transition from interaction to impact is often gradual.

We use the concept of 'stakeholder' in a broad sense, that is, all those involved in achieving social impact: researchers, industry, public organizations, the government, the general public.

Examples of Productive Interactions, and their relationship to impact and stakeholders:


Productive Interaction

Social impact


Assessment tool

Direct, personal

Behavioural change

One-to-one, personal and professional networks

Interviews, focus group

Indirect, media

Uptake, use

Different audiences

Quantitative data collection

Financial or in kind support


Joint projects

Annual reports, other documents

The three Productive Interactions, with associated indicators, have been studied and developed in case studies within different fields: nanotechnology, ICT, health, and social sciences & humanities.
From these case studies, the SIAMPI team has concluded:
  • Productive interactions are indeed resulting in social impact, but they are not always a necessary condition.
  • Regarding the focus on social impact achievement we found differences between fields and countries.
  • Social impact (changes in behaviour) can be shown through instances of success stories (best practices).
  • Social impact can be distinguished from other impacts such as economic, environmental or technical, but there are no clear borders between the concepts.
  • There is a growing awareness among researchers and research organisations of the importance of social impact, but in many cases there seems to be no clear incentive to collect data on social impact.
  • There is a growing awareness among stakeholders of the importance of finding the right contacts, the right productive interactions, with researchers.

    For more information, see SIAMPI documents.


    SIAMPI does not aim to judge, but rather to reflect, learn and improve. Therefore its philosophy is not fixated on societal impact itself, as this is often impossible to measure, but highlights the processes that could cause this impact. Productive interactions are a way to make potential impact more visible, as they enable to predict the chance to which research could have societal impact.

  • Last Modified: 24-07-2012