This 38-page working paper by Sergio Manrique, Marta Wróblewska and Bradley Good presents the MARIA assessment model (Multidimensional Approach for Research Impact Assessment). It is designed particularly for self-assessment or internal assessment of research impact and it looks at projects from a broader, more holistic perspective.
In the introduction, the paper identifies several shortcomings of current evaluation tools. It argues that many assessment methods are time-consuming, impractical for academics to use and not reflective enough of the ethics of impact generation. Additionally, the authors criticise evaluation frameworks for relying too heavily on a numerical one-size-fits-all approach which is geared toward STEM disciplines.
The MARIA model aims to offer a multidimensional approach that would be easy for academics to use and would be suitable for any scientific discipline. It has five criteria of assessment: Responsiveness, Accessibility, Reflexivity, Ecology and Adaptability. According to the authors, these five notions are attributes of impactful research applicable across all disciplines.
Impactful research should be responsive to real problems and issues in society and aspire to make clear, specific and valuable contributions to current public debates. We could achieve responsive research in different ways, for example by engaging with global or long-term issues, involving stakeholders, collaborating with partners outside academia and embracing interdisciplinary approaches.
Research should be accessible to stakeholders and society so that everyone can engage with the research findings. This dimension evaluates how the research is communicated with stakeholders and the general public. It also touches on the idea of making research, tools and methodologies Open Access.
The third notion evolves around critical thinking and acting upon that reflection. Research should be based on a clear understanding of the objectives, methodology and results. We should aim to understand what the intention of the research project is, what is being achieved and whether the research contributes to inequality.
Impactful research should be ecological, not only from an environmental perspective but also socially, culturally and economically. We should examine both the possible benefits of the project and also the potential disadvantages research might bring to the affected communities and stakeholders.
Research needs to be adaptable to different contexts and groups of stakeholders. It makes research more relevant and strengthens the research-policy dialogue. At the same time, researchers should be clear about the limitations of their project and highlight emerging questions and potential further research opportunities.
The working paper describes the dimensions in more detail and also gives examples for each category. Additionally, in the appendix section, you can find three MARIA evaluations conducted on real-life research projects. One case study uses the MARIA model in the planning stage, one during the research and one after the end of the project. It demonstrates that the MARIA evaluation can be done at different stages of the research cycle.
Overall, the MARIA method is a light-touch evaluation tool that looks at research impact from multiple dimensions and considers its ethics and sustainability. It aims to offer a fairer treatment to social sciences and humanities research, which is often disadvantaged in the traditional evaluation frameworks. The working paper is easy to read and follow, making it a great resource for beginners.
This article is part of our initiative, R2A Impact Practitioners. To find out more, please click here.