An explorative study on a university’s outreach in the field of UN Sustainable Development Goal 2

Theo Jetten, Linda Veldhuizen, Mark Siebert, Elaine Omman-Kloek, Peter Darroch

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This research explores whether and how the societal impact of research can be demonstrated by using proxy measures such as mentions of research in mainstream news media, social media and in policy documents. We explore the use of these measures within the research domain related to SDG 2 as a way to: compare performance against peer institutes and researchers; explore correlations between news media mentions, social media mentions and other more traditional ‘academic’ impact indicators such as citation counts; and explore whether relative scientific quality or news media /social media attention increases the likelihood of being used in policy documents through a case study that focuses on a key policy document produced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

Our results show that no clear relationship can be distinguished between scholarly output or various proxies of scientific quality with news media mentions. This result demonstrates that scientific quality does not necessarily translate into news media or social media mentions. Hence, universities and researchers need to actively invest in outreach to improve the contribution of research, researchers and research institutes to society. In addition, departments dealing with scientific benchmarking need to collaborate more closely with communication departments as universities may reconsider the way they organize their outreach to society. Articles cited by the policy document had higher values for citation metrics and had more Mendeley readers, tweets, Facebook mentions, blog mentions and news mentions than articles in the reference set that this policy document would have sourced from. The higher number of social media and news media mentions for the FAO references could have contributed to their uptake by the FAO policy document. However, this higher number could also be a result of the higher scientific quality of the FAO references. Researchers and research institutes are advised to consider joining the writing committee of relevant policy documents for more influence on policy making. There is a benefit to both software developers and policymakers to improve the visibility of policy documents for analysis as the coverage of policy documents is still limited. New insights based on a comprehensive analysis of more policy documents could trigger institutes to actively re-think the way they interact with policy and policymakers.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2019


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