Societal impact evaluation

Concepts, examples, rough guide

Impact evaluation can help EUR employees demonstrate, describe and share the impact, learning and value that they make for society. As part of the 'Fostering societal impact' strategy theme, the Evaluating Societal Impact (ESI) project works for and with the EUR community in developing methods to evaluate the (societal) impact of research and education at the EUR. ESI is learning as it goes. We take time to stop, reflect and adjust our course when we need to. We want to help you do the same.

This website is a living document where the ESI project provides high quality information to assist EUR employees interested in embedding societal impact evaluation into their activities. To get started, some general information about the ESI project and the (wider) impact context in the dropdown menu below. In separate sections we outline our core theoretical 'impact evaluation concepts' and share more practical examples and ‘how-to’ information in our rough guide. 

If you did not find what you are looking for, please feel free to contact us for more information (contact Lisa Burghardt).

Bianca Langhout

Project manager ESI and Recognition & Rewards
Focus: strategic planning, overall coordination, networking, embedded at Strategy Office and HR

Arwin van Buuren

Academic lead ESI and Impact at the core
Full professor of Public Administration

Focus: design-based research, impact methodologies, co-creation, collaborative innovation and governance

Jorrit Smit

Postdoc ESI
Focus: research impact & evaluation, scientific practice, theoretical depth, historical perspective

Lotte Houtepen

Project & Policy officer 
Focus: research impact, liaison for faculties, embedded at academic affairs

Tung Tung Chan

Research intelligence advisor
Focus: strategic advice, SDG, research intelligence/ responsible metrics, works at Erasmus Research Services (ERS)

Lisa Burghardt

Junior researcher and project officer

Focus: research impact, communication & events, embedded at Strategy Office

ESI aims to design and implement a widely supported method to evaluate, measure and further develop the (societal) impact of research and education at EUR. Specifically our team contributes to several areas with:


ESI contribution

Impact evaluation and activities

  • Develop overview of different type of impact activities
  • Develop conceptual framework impact evaluation
  • Develop impact indicators
  • Develop tools for impact tracking and monitoring
  • Develop templates for impact reporting
  • Draft Annual Impact Report

Impact ambition and -strategy

  • Templates and building blocks for strategy formation
  • Facilitate knowledge sharing and learning
  • Provide advice and peer review

Impact environment and capacity

  • Share knowledge about impact evaluation
  • Provide advice and peer review
  • Facilitate culture change and dialogue
  • Contribute to professionalization and knowledge sharing via training and workshop offers.


  • Tools and resources: for those who want to evaluate societal impact, but don’t know where to start, or need inspiration for new methods. Go to our rough guide.
  • Training: We can provide workshops and training on societal impact evaluation. The workshops are tailored for the audience concerned, such as the ‘Designing the impact strategy for a research proposal’ during the ERS research days or ‘Getting into an impact mindset by formulating your theory of change’ during the Erasmian values for early careers organized by Young at EUR. For further information, please contact Lotte Houtepen.
  • Case Studies: our case studies in the rough guide section include examples of evaluation methods and showcase methods to share learning.

Many organizations in the wider academic environment are working on connecting science and society. Here we provide a (non-exhaustive) list of organizations with links to their resources. Some resources are on related concepts and developments in academia, such as open science, sustainable development goals and responsible research & innovation.



With the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), 14 Dutch universities show the outside world how they fulfil their social function, formulate shared ambitions relating to academic education and research and valorisation, and lobby for the preconditions needed to realise these ambitions. The link to society is stated explicitly for several VSNU activities: 


NWO defines societal impact as ‘Cultural, economic, industrial, ecological or social changes that are entirely or in part the consequence of knowledge and expertise generated by research.’ The current strategic plan ‘Connecting Science and Society’ includes several themes that relate to societal impact: open science, knowledge and innovation covenant and knowledge utilisation

The most explicit link NWO makes about creating societal impact is for knowledge utilisation. This is defined as an iterative process where the chance of societal impact increases by stimulating productive interactions with social stakeholders both during the development and in the execution of the research. NWO's three knowledge utilisation approaches vary in type of activity and stage in proportion to the expectation of societal impact.

  • Impact Outlook Approach: to facilitate (unforeseen) opportunities for social impact during the project term.
  • Impact Plan Approach: for contributing to social issues 
  • Impact Focus Approach: for applying already developed knowledge and insights

If you are planning to apply for a NWO grant, there are e-learning modules to help you get started on incorporating societal impact into your proposal:


The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMW) has several societal impact related resources. The starting point is the 'Strengthening impact' page, but the 'Demonstrating impact' also has more specific information such as implementation activities. 


The Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW) published a report in 2018 ‘Maatschappelijke impact in kaart’ with several policy recommendations in relation to societal impact evaluation.


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The United Nations developed 17 interlinked global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all". Though broad and interdependent, the 17 SDGs were made more actionable by identifying specific targets with progress indicators for each goal. There is a full list of 169 SDG Targets and 232 unique progress indicators. Mapping how academic activities relate to the SDGs can aid the identification of societal relevance.

Within the EUR, sustainability is one of seven EUR priorities also embodied by the strategic Sustainable Development theme. The Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) uses the SDGs as a reference framework for their mission. In the rough guide section of this website we will add information about a SDG mapper that is being developed by research intelligence advisor Tung Tung Chan.

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Within the European Union Horizon 2020 program Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is the key action of the ‘Science with and for Society’ objective. RRI is an approach that anticipates and assesses potential implications and societal expectations with regard to research and innovation, with the aim to foster the design of inclusive and sustainable research and innovation. Within ESI, research intelligence advisor Tung Tung Chan has RRI in her portfolio.

Open science

Open science is a movement towards more open and collaborative academic practices. This can be about sharing and re-use of academic output at the earliest possible stage (e.g. publications, data, software), but also involving other parties throughout the process (e.g. citizen science). Open Science is a policy priority for the European Commission.  For the Dutch context, a recent Rathenau institute report 'Samen verder met open science' described when and how to organize meaningful public involvement as part of open science. 

Within the EUR, the Open Science Community Rotterdam (OSCR) (coordinated by Antonio Schettino) is an important driver for open science. Within ESI, Lotte Houtepen has open science in her portfolio.

Impact in Sight - Arwin van Buuren

Impact Dialogues: a conversation about societal impact

To work with an embedded and positive impact culture as EUR community, we need to develop a shared understanding of what societal impact entails that pays tribute to the diversity within the EUR. You are invited to join a series of dialogue sessions where you can connect to colleagues and share insights about creating societal impact in your daily work.

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