Research portfolio analysis in science policy: moving from financial returns to societal benefits


Funding agencies and large public scientific institutions are increasingly using the  term research portfolio as a means of characterising their research. While portfolios  have long been used as a heuristic for managing corporate R&D (i.e., R&D aimed at gaining tangible economic benefits), they remain ill defined in a science policy context where research  is aimed at achieving societal outcomes. In this article we analyze the discursive uses of the term research portfolio  and propose some general considerations for their application in science policy. We explore the use of the term in private R&D and related scholarly literature in existing science policy practices, and seek insight in relevant literature in science policy scholarship. While the financial analogy can in some instances be instructive, a simple transposition from the world of finance or of corporate R&D to public research is  problematic. However, we do identify  potentially  fruitful  uses  of portfolio  analysis  in science policy. In particular, our review suggests that the concept of research portfolio can indeed be a useful analytical instrument for tackling complex societal challenges. Specifically, the strands  of scholarship identified"suggest that the use of research portfolio should: i) recognize the diversity of research lines relevant for a given societal challenge, given the uncertainty and ambiguity of research outcomes; ii) examine the relationships between research options of a portfolio and  the expected societal outcomes; and iii) adopt a  systemic  perspective to research portfolios – i.e., examine a portfolio as a unctional hole, rather than as the sum of the its parts. We argue that with these considerations,  portfolio driven  approaches may  foster social inclusion in science policy decisions, help deliberation between alternative portfolios to tackle complex societal challenges, as well as promote cost effectiveness and transparency.

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Instituição Editora: 
University of Sussex
Autor ou Criador: 
Matthew L. Wallace
Ismael Rafols

WALLACE, Matthew L.; RAFOLS, Ismael. Research portfolio analysis in science policy: moving from financial returns to societal benefits. SPRU Working Paper Series (SWPS), p. 1-29, mar. 2015.

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