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Rome, September, 30th – The Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of Universities and Research Institutes (ANVUR) has hosted three partner agencies to present their activities and perspectives on the topics of third mission, knowledge exchange and impact:
Universities and research institutes have come a long way from their traditional “ivory tower” stance to assume an increasingly dynamic societal role, through the processes of “third mission” or knowledge exchange. They have gradually become protagonists of a collaborative effort to put knowledge, research and teaching at the service of society, and to actively contribute to its development in a broad variety of fields (public engagement, innovation, culture, sustainable development, etc.).
By their very nature, “third mission” or knowledge exchange activities are a privileged test bed for experimenting with an enhancement-oriented approach. This growing orientation is particularly relevant for higher education and research institutions, because it allows to trace a common thread between the traditional teaching and research missions, the various actors involved (researchers, students and staff members) and the territorial contexts to which the institutions belong: it allows an integrated vision of the institutions, in which the “third mission” and the impact it generates is seen transversally to the other functions.
Quality assurance and evaluation agencies are aware of this turn and they are increasingly combining a traditional assurance or compliance role with a more facilitative and enhancement one.
It therefore seemed interesting to promote a dialogue between agencies and initiatives that have paid particular attention to this issue, in order to exchange experiences and stimulate shared reflection on the topic of societal impact and cross-fertilization of university’s missions.
ANVUR current perspective draws back to a work that started several years ago on the different forms of social responsibility in which Italian universities and research institutes are engaged and on the criteria for measuring and enhancing their impact. Nowadays ANVUR is working on the third round of the research evaluation exercise, the Evaluation of Research Quality (VQR) 2015-2019). In the previous VQR exercises, the Third mission was evaluated, in an experimental way, through a census of activities carried out by universities and research institutes. Instead, with this exercise the impact of the third mission activities will be evaluated, through the case studies. In fact, 2015-2019 VQR exercise refers to an “open” definition of impact and it aims to give individual institutions the opportunity to show their own Third Mission initiatives with greater social impact with a bottom-up approach.
Italian universities and PROs have reacted with enthusiasm submitting nearly 700 case studies whose impact has ranged in all the ten fields of action: Valorization of intellectual or industrial property; Academic entrepreneurship; Technology transfer structures; Production and management of artistic and cultural assets; Clinical trials and health initiatives; Lifelong learning; Public Engagement; Production of social, educational and political public goods for inclusion; Innovative tools to support Open Science; Activities related to the Agenda ONU 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
During the workshop, some of the first data from submitted case studies have been presented. The event has been introduced by the President of ANVUR, prof. Antonio Felice Uricchio and concluded by prof. Alessandra Celletti, Vice-President of ANVUR and Delegate for the VQR 2015-2019 procedure, while the comparative session has been moderated by prof. Marilena Maniaci. Prof. Andrzej S. Wodka, President of AVEPRO, Daniele Livon, Director of ANVUR, Prof. Francesco Cupertino, Rector of Polytechnic University of Bari and CRUI representative and Prof. Luis Navarro, President of CRUIPRO, have given their welcome address, while the speech have been given by Riccardo Cinquegrani, Director of AVEPRO, Antonio Serrano Gonzalez, Director of ACPUA, Greg Wade, Universities UK, KE Concordat Leader, and Brigida Blasi, ANVUR Head of Third Mission/Impact Evaluation Unit.