Claire Donovan FRSA



Qualifications: DPhil, MA, Social and Political Thought (Sussex), BA (Hons) Philosophy (Soton)

Claire Donovan is a Reader in Science and Technology Studies, and joined Brunel University in 2010. She has pioneered cross-disciplinary research on research evaluation and policy, including assessing the wider impacts of research on society, and the governance of the humanities, arts, and social sciences within science systems. In 2006, Australia’s Chief Scientist appointed her Chair of the Australian Government’s Technical Working Group on Research Impact, tasked with recommending the optimum methodology for assessing the wider economic, social, environmental and cultural impact of university research. She championed the use of case studies and narratives alongside robust impact indicators. The work of this group influenced the design of the ‘impact’ component of the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

Claire previously held research and teaching positions at the Research School of Social Sciences, The Australian National University; Nuffield College, Oxford University; and The Open University. Claire has been a visiting fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge University; Wolfson College, Cambridge University; the Science, Technology and Society Program, John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; the Department of Government, London School of Economics; the Science, Technology and Society Cluster, National University of Singapore; and the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex. In 2003-05 Claire was an Elected Associate Member of the Sociology Group, Nuffield College, Oxford University. In 2013 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Areas of expertise

  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Sociology of Knowledge
  • Epistemology
  • Assessing research impact (all fields)
  • Research evaluation and research policy

· Governance of humanities, arts, and social sciences within science systems

  • Evaluation and metrics as technologies of governance
  • Assessing the value of culture
  • Forensic bibliometrics
  • Case studies and narrative methods


Research project(s) and grant(s)

Current research projects

‘Gendered Excellence in the Social Sciences’, Fiona Jenkins (PI), Helen Keane, Marian Sawyer, Claire Donovan, Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (AUD $397,514 / £172,083), 2015-17.

Gender equity has still not been realised, despite decades of activism, policy and research. In some of the social sciences, women make up less than 15 per cent of the professoriate. Yet these are the disciplines that should most aid our understanding of how gender works in society. The project asks what impact women's limited influence and status in these key fields of research has upon our capacity to grapple with the social and political changes necessary for progress toward gender equality. In doing so, it builds persuasive arguments about how and why gender matters in the social sciences. By examining how we judge excellence in social science research, the project aims to contribute to advancing women in all fields.

‘IMPACT-EV: Evaluating the impact and outcomes of European social sciences and humanities research’, Ramon Flecha (PI), Dragona Amarov, Claire Donovan, Poul Holm, Benedetto Lepori, Andrea Scharnhorst, Andras Schubert and Emanuela Reale, European Commission FP7 Programme (€2,271,709 / £1,514,472), 2014-18.

The European Commission invested €50 billion in funding academic research through its 7th Framework Programme (2007-13) and will invest a further €80 billion in its Horizon 2020 scheme (2014-20). It is vitally important for the Commission to demonstrate to EU citizens the impact of its research investment, and so it is seeking the most rigorous approaches to: a) robustly evaluate the outcomes of individual grants, and; b) rigorously select the most promising future research and researchers to fund.

This demand takes place in a context where research evaluation has traditionally focused on the scientific impact of research publications, rather than the impact this science has on society; and has tended to highlight the impact of the natural sciences while side-lining the impact of research in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). For this reason, measures of research performance have developed that do not necessarily reflect the achievements of SSH research. This has led some critics to question whether SSH research has any real value, and if it should be funded by the EU at all. In response, the European Commission has funded the IMPACT-EV project to apply state of the art approaches to assess the impact of SSH research conducted under the 7th Framework Programme.

The main objective of the IMPACT-EV project is to develop a permanent system of selection, monitoring, evaluation and comparison of the impact and outcomes from European SSH research taking into account the latest quantitative and qualitative evaluation techniques, identifying new ways of implementing them, and exploring new standards and indicators that complement existing impact assessment processes. The IMPACT-EV project will contribute to defining standards of quality for impact assessment, and seeks to promote the enhanced scientific, policy, and social impact of SSH research in Europe.

Project website:


Completed research projects

Evaluating the returns from research funded by Australia’s National Breast Cancer Foundation, Claire Donovan (PI), Stephen Hanney, Teresa Jones, National Breast Cancer Foundation (£49,925), 2012.

This research was an evaluation of the returns from research funded by Australia‘s National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) using the ’Payback Framework‘. It covered all of NBCF‘s research funding programmes since its establishment in 1994, and a more selective case study approach to investigate its high impact research across the various Payback domains. The research consisted of a series of elements:

1) a review of the existing material available from NBCF;

2) a survey of Chief Investigators on selected Project Grants and Fellowships;

3) 16 selected mini-case studies;

4) development of recommendations for routine data collection and monitoring of research impacts, and observations on future research strategy;

5) progress reports for the NBCF Board;

6) production of a report for NBCF.


Project publications

Claire Donovan, Linda Butler, Alison J. Butt, Teresa H. Jones and Stephen R. Hanney (2014) 'Evaluation of the Impact of National Breast Cancer Foundation-funded Research'. Medical Journal of Australia, 200 (4): 214-18. doi: 10.5694/mja13.10798. Download publication 

Download summary of the HERG Evaluation Report from the NBCF website.

Measuring Cultural Value Phase 2: A holistic approach to valuing our culture, Claire Donovan (PI), Arts and Humanities Research Council / Economic and Social Research Council/ Department of Culture, Media and Sport (£49,914), 2011-12.

This project investigated the possibility of a holistic approach to valuing our culture that is sensitive to various scales of investment in the cultural sector, and that can balance the need for transparent decision-making with a broad vision of the unique value that the cultural sector creates.

A key aim was to consult with cultural sector representatives with expertise in evaluation, and whose organisations had different and competing interests, to see if any consensus could be reached on appropriate sector-wide measures of cultural value. This was achieved though discussion threads on a blog hosted by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and by organising two stakeholder workshops. There was unanimous support for the holistic approach. Desk-based work found that using economic valuation techniques alone to value culture was unrealistic in practice. This was due to the lack of a sufficient foundation of relevant economic valuation studies, and the prohibitive costs of conducting such studies.

The project concluded that DCMS adopt a holistic and consultative approach to valuing our culture, recognising a combination of economic and non-economic approaches are valid, depending on context; and that DCMS develop clear and detailed guidance on using economic and non-economic valuation techniques.

Project publications

Claire Donovan and Dave O'Brien, D. (forthcoming 2016) 'Governing Culture: Legislators, interpreters and accountants'. Critical Perspectives on Accounting. doi: 10.1016/ Download publication 

Claire Donovan (2013) ‘A Holistic Approach to Valuing Our Culture: A Report to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’ Download publication from the website.

Special Research Institute(s)

Selected Publications

Journal articles

Reale, E. , Avramov, D. , Donovan, C. , Flecha, R. , et al.   (Accepted)   'A review of literature on evaluating the scientific, social, and political impact of social sciences and humanities research'. Research EvaluationDownload publication 

Donovan, C.   (Accepted)   'For Ethical 'Impactology''. Journal of Responsible Innovation. doi: 10.1080/23299460.2017.1300756 Download publication 

Samuel, G. , Donovan, C.  and Lee, J.   (Accepted)   'University-industry teaching collaborations: a case study of the MSc in Structural Integrity co-produced by Brunel University London and The Welding Institute'. Studies in Higher Education. doi: 10.1080/03075079.2016.1199542 Download publication 

Donovan, C.  and O'Brien, D.   (2015)   'Governing culture: legislators, interpreters and accountants'. Critical Perspectives on Accounting. doi: 10.1016/ Download publication 

Donovan, C. , Butler, L. , Butt, AJ. , Jones, TH.  and Hanney, SR.   (2014)   'Evaluation of the impact of National Breast Cancer Foundation-funded research'. Medical Journal of Australia, 200 (4).  pp. 214 - 218. doi: 10.5694/mja13.10798. Download publication 

Donovan, C.   (2013)   'Beyond the 'Postmodern University''. The European Legacy: toward new paradigms, 18 (1).  pp. 24 - 41. doi: 10.1080/10848770.2013.748119 Download publication 

Jones, TH. , Donovan, C.  and Hanney, S.   (2012)   'Tracing the wider impacts of biomedical research: A literature search to develop a novel citation categorisation technique'. Scientometrics, 93 (1).  pp. 125 - 134. doi: 10.1007/s11192-012-0642-8 Download publication 

Donovan, C.  and Hanney, S.   (2011)   'The 'Payback Framework' explained'. Research Evaluation, 20 (3).  pp. 181 - 183. 

Donovan, C.   (2011)   'State of the Art in Assessing Research Impact: Introduction to a special issue'. Research Evaluation, 3 pp. 175 - 179. 

Donovan, C.   (2009)   'Gradgrinding the social sciences: The politics of metrics of political science'. Political Studies Review, 7 (1).  pp. 73 - 83. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-9299.2008.00172.x Download publication 

Donovan, C.   (2008)   'The Australian Research Quality Framework: A live experiment in capturing the social, economic, environmental, and cultural returns of publicly funded research'. New Directions for Evaluation, 2008 (118).  pp. 47 - 60. doi: 10.1002/ev.260 Download publication 

Donovan, C.   (2007)   'Introduction: Future pathways for science policy and research assessment: Metrics vs peer review, quality vs impact'. Science and Public Policy, 34 (8).  pp. 538 - 542. doi: 10.3152/030234207X256529 Download publication 

Donovan, C.   (2007)   'The qualitative future of research evaluation'. Science and Public Policy, 34 (8).  pp. 585 - 597. doi: 10.3152/030234207X256538 

Donovan, C.   (2007)   'The hidden perils of citation counting for Australasian political science'. Australian Journal of Political Science, 42 (4).  pp. 665 - 678. doi: 10.1080/10361140701595825 

Donovan, C.  and Butler, L.   (2007)   'Testing novel quantitative indicators of research 'quality', esteem and 'user engagement': An economics pilot study'. Research Evaluation, 16 (4).  pp. 231 - 242. doi: 10.3152/095820207X257030 

Donovan, C.  and Larkin, P.   (2006)   'The problem of political science and practical politics'. Politics, 26 (1).  pp. 11 - 17. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9256.2006.00246.x Download publication 

Clay, MA. , Donovan, C. , Butler, L.  and Oldenburg, BF.   (2006)   'The returns from cardiovascular research: The impact of the National Heart Foundation of Australia's investment'. Medical Journal of Australia, 185 (4).  pp. 209 - 212. 

Donovan, C.   (2006)   'The chequered career of a cryptic concept'. The Political Quarterly, 77 (Suppl s1).  pp. 61 - 72. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-923X.2006.00781.x Download publication 

  (2005)   'Women in higher education: Issues and challenges for part-time scientists'. Women's Studies International Forum, 28 (2-3 SPEC. ISS.).  pp. 247 - 258. doi: 10.1016/j.wsif.2005.04.011 

Donovan, C.   (2005)   'The governance of Social Science and everyday epistemology'. Public Administration, 83 (3).  pp. 597 - 615. doi: 10.1111/j.0033-3298.2005.00464.x 

Book chapters

Donovan, C.  (2016)   'From Multiversity to Postmodern University', in Cote, J.  and Furlong, A. (eds.) Routledge Handbook of the Sociology of Higher Education.  Routledge Download publication 

Donovan, C.  (2014)   'Impact Agenda', in Holbrook, JB. (ed.) Ethics, Science, Technology and Engineering: A Global Resource, 2nd Edition.  Macmillan Reference USA pp. . Download publication 

Donovan, C.  (2014)   'Creating #havoc: A holistic approach to valuing our culture', in Swindells, S.  and Powell, A. (eds.) “What is to be Done?”: Cultural Leadership and Public Engagement in Art and Design Education.  Cambridge Cambridge Scholars pp. 19 - 29. Download publication 

Donovan, C.  (2008)   'The Australian Research Quality Framework: A live experiment in capturing the social, economic, environmental, and cultural returns of publicly funded research', in Coryn, CLS.  and Scriven, M. (eds.) Reforming the evaluation of research: New directions for evaluation.  Jossey-Bass Inc Publishers pp. . 

Donovan, C.  (2008)   'Das zweiköpfige Lama zähmen: Die australische suche nach den besten evaluierungsmethoden für die geisteswissenschaften [Taming the Pushmi-pullyu: State of the art in evaluating humanities research quality – A view from down under]', in Lack, E.  and Markschies, C. (eds.) What the hell is quality? Qualitätsstandards in den Geisteswissenschaften [What the hell is quality? Quality standards in the humanities].  Frankfurt Campus Verlag pp. 74 - 98. 

Donovan, C.  (2007)   'Consuming Social Science', in Bevir, M.  and Trentmann, F. (eds.) Governance, consumers and citizens.  New York Palgrave Macmillan pp. . 

Donovan, C.  (2006)   'The chequered career of a cryptic concept', in Dench, G. (ed.) The rise and rise of meritocracy.  Oxford Wiley-Blackwell pp. . 

Donovan, C.  (2004)   'Citation and content analysis', in Halsey, AH. (ed.) A history of sociology in Britain.  Oxford Oxford University Press pp. 241 - 249. Download publication 

Page last updated: Monday 09 May 2016