The broader impact of research – beyond its citation index

broader impact of research

Manuela Brusoni, Dean’s Delegate for Accreditation and Paola Egi, Accreditation Manager, SDA Bocconi School of Management, share their experience with BSIS. 

As our Dean, Giuseppe Soda explained in his contribution to the book BSIS: A Decade of Impact, the reasons why SDA Bocconi School of Management decided to go for BSIS were based on multiple views and different objectives.

There were two main areas of reasoning: first, to combine everything that we do into a circular systemic connection backed by a structured and neutral perspective, and second, to start selecting and testing a template for periodic, continuous reporting to stakeholders, using both external and internal communication and addressing a range of learning purposes. This is our ecosystem graphic description:

Our ecosystem

Our ecosystem

One of the seven key areas for impact assessment of BSIS1 is research, named “intellectual impact”, usually a very debated issue, especially in Schools of Management where many internal and external forces place pressure on faculty, asking them to produce high-level academic research, while also ensuring it has practice-based, actionable implications, while also making it suitable for immediate adoption in teaching, while also creating a wealth of dissemination opportunities, while also…what else?

Echoing the never-ending dilemmas surrounding research in Schools of Management, which describe the complexity and breadth of the issue, are questions such as:

  • What impact do we want our school’s research to make?
  • On whom do we intend to make an impact, on the academic and/or the managerial community?
  • How do we measure the different kinds of impact?
  • What impact do we expect our faculty to make?

Every time we talk about research with various types of audiences, we come up against a decision wall, with different points of entry: high-level outlets/ journals OR research reports/ professional journals OR teaching materials OR newspapers/ magazines/ websites: how can we keep all these views together in a comprehensive scheme? BSIS drove us to make what we do explicit, without the need or demand to follow a single pathway, but to advocate for an articulated, interconnected view- what we actually did for BSIS, but especially for ourselves.

In order to integrate knowledge creation and learning, SDA Bocconi has merged the previously independent Research and Custom Programs Divisions, including custom research, into Research Labs, which are a powerful way to support academic and practice-centred research which generates knowledge, by closely monitoring trends over the long term and sharing findings on areas covered by SDA Bocconi’s knowledge groups, both industry-focused and interdisciplinary.

This is highlighting a Strong connection with real problems; a Thought process of analysis, solutions, experiential learning and dissemination; a High-level of international outlook and relevance; and a Productive business model.

Using a LEGO bricks approach, we put together what we called our “research flow”, based on our SDA Bocconi framework, as presented below.

research flow

After defining this process, we realised the different facets it could offer to our various stakeholders with their specific requests, be they i) academic and/or practice-oriented outputs for faculty visibility, ii) teaching innovation for students and participants, iii) dissemination for the community and, back to our research labs, iv) innovations in research focus and content. They would leverage on various areas of knowledge creation and integration, in order to focus the emerging research questions and combine them with the critical decision-making needs of private companies and public institutions.

severn impact hubsTherefore, this representation could frame a sort of meta-platform/ meta-environment for a School of Management, able to connect – albeit not through a formally structured organizational chart – the various points of entry of a School of Management’s research network as a “hub with multiple spokes”, and not necessarily excluding high level academic research from a wider vision of any impact we could achieve. In the words of the BSIS Experts: “Research Labs: an amazing capability to create a value proposition for Companies/organizations to fund research & then benefit from knowledge exchange, generating virtuous spirals between companies/research/impact”.

All in all, the effort we have placed on BSIS adoption has led us to two syntheses: one more image-led, the other more explanation-based (SDA Bocconi Impact Report and Video).

This allowed us to better visualise and convey the meaning and, of course, the overall impact portfolio of our School. But the impact journey has just begun.

1 The 7 chapters for impact assessment are: Financial, educational, business development, intellectual, regional ecosystem, societal, image (