Chair: Ivo Aertsen

Societal impact of criminological research

Building: G
Room: 12


Author: Aertsen Ivo, University of Leuven

Title: Societal Impact of Criminological Research: Developing Its Understanding
This paper will start from the discussion on societal impact as presented in the recent LERU position paper ‘Productive Interactions’ (2017). There, the evolving nature of societal impact of research in the context of complex inter- and transdisciplinary networks of knowledge generation is considered not from a linear model but from a dynamic perspective. We will discuss whether and how this concept of societal impact is relevant for the criminological discipline, confronted with specific and strong demands of societal impact nowadays. We will argue for a clear distinction between social and policy related effects on the one hand, and societal impact on the other. Moreover, the predominance of the notion of ‘societal impact’ for criminological research will be questioned, putting forward the idea of ‘societal meaning’. Societal impact in criminological research should not be considered in an instrumental way focusing on ‘common goals’, but must be evaluated in the context of an engaged, ongoing and critical relationship between academia, practice and policy. Reference will be made to examples of research programmes that evolve in this perspective.
Keywords: societal impact – co-creation of knowledge – interdisciplinarity – participatory research
Author: Crawford Adam, University of Leeds

Title: Societal Impact as ‘Rituals of Verification’ or the Co-Production of Knowledge?
Thinking about, planning and operationalizing societal impact have become defining characteristics of academic research in universities. This paper reflects on the driving forces behind and implications of this shift in the practice of research. It argues for an understanding of societal impact rooted in methodologies of co-production; whereby knowledge is understood as socially distributed, application-oriented, transdisciplinary and subject to multiple accountabilities. It juxtaposes this with instrumental/linear views of societal impact implicit in governmental attempts to measure research performance. It critically assesses this apparent political imperative that justifies the investment of public resources through forms of transparency. These constitute ‘rituals of verification’ that seek auditable performance accompanied by effects that erode trust and intellectual curiosity. Instead, the paper argues for modes of research governance that take societal impact seriously as a complex, non-linear and uncertain endeavour, paying close attention to the quality of the relationships in which knowledge generation is embedded. This is illustrated by insights from involvement in Research Excellence Framework 2014 and efforts to realise co-production through the N8 Policing Research Partnership. With fierce competition for public resources, the paper questions the extent to which co-production is capable of being rendered ‘auditable’ or is likely to be undermined by such forces.
Keywords: societal impact – performance measurement – research assessment - co-production - transdisciplinarity
Author: Sparks Richard, University of Edinburgh

Ian Loader, University of Oxford
Title: Criminological Inquiry as a Democratic Resource
This paper develops a theme mentioned, but advisedly little-explored, in the closing pages of our book Public Criminology?, namely that a key purpose of criminological research in relation to public questions is that of ‘raising the quality of political argument’. But how is this accomplished, by whom, in what contexts and conversations?; and how do we know it when we see it? What exactly, in other words, does the increasingly pervasive diction of research ‘impact’ have to do with promoting a better politics of crime? Impact contains distinct incentives that affect research agendas, careers and conduct. It therefore demands to be investigated quite searchingly – beyond what we here call the projectile metaphor on which simple interpretations of what it is and entails seem to depend. To do this we draw upon two related bodies of thought of critical importance in 20th and 21st century social science, but generally rather little consulted in criminology, namely the (principally American) tradition of pragmatist social theory (associated with John Dewey and his successors) and on contemporary work in deliberative democratic theory. We propose that these encounters suggest a number of orientations to the question of how criminological knowledge may contribute to democratic conversation on what is to be done in matters of crime, justice and security. We call these orientations: discovery, recovery, institutional design, legitimacy, critique, futurity and hope.
Keywords: public criminology, pragmatism, deliberation, democratization
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