What is Societal Impact?

Security research projects can have a range of effects upon the society in which are they conducted, and upon different individuals and groups.

Social Impact Assessment is based on a procedural understanding of (security) technology research and development that does not distinguish between the technology on the one and the society on the other side. Rather, SIA as we understand it sets out to assess the societal dimensions of the R&D process from the beginning on and to feed back the results into the R&D process.

SIA is different from evaluation research in at least three respects: First, SIA focuses on the consequences of developments, while evaluation research tends to focus on the programmes or policies prescribing the developments themselves. Second, SIA seeks to foreground the unintended consequences, while evaluation research tends to focus on the stated or intended goals of a policy, programme, or plan. Third – and perhaps most distinctively – SIA is typically prospective rather than retrospective (Freudenburg 1986: 452).

It is an increasing priority for several research funding schemes, that the research they fund includes an assessment of the potential social impact of the research.