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Impacts of infrastructures - in the eyes of the beholder

van Drooge, Leonie

For each and every stakeholder of a research infrastructure (RI), be it a user, a funder, a member state or–organization, the same research infrastructure has a different meaning. The infrastructure provides the opportunity to use tools, data or texts that are otherwise not accessible. It enables the development of novel research questions. Using the infrastructure equals developing human capacity. It fosters gender equality. The research provides valuable insights with societal relevance. New tools and technologies are useful outside of academia. The infrastructure strengthens collaborations across countries. Some of the above contributions, changes or impacts relate directly to the statutes of an RI, its mission and primary processes. To what is intended. Others relate to what a stakeholder expects, to a certain role of the RI. To what is expected. Some relate to core responsibilities of a RI, others to small contributions in a larger process. Some relate to academic research, others to political agendas. Each research infrastructure contributes in theory and in practice to a wide variety of impacts. Some impacts are more relevant than others. What impact, is not self-evident. It depends on what is expected and intended, on the operational phase and the governance of the RI, on the stakeholder and the evaluation context. What counts as evidence for an impact, is not self-evident either. However, it is clear that evidence should relate to goals, intentions and expectations, and that it can relate to final impacts as well as activities, choices and processes preceding impacts.

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