CLIMAS Project and Program Evaluation

Project Dates

The CLIMAS program evaluation model uses data collected from annual report templates and from periodic interviews with CLIMAS investigators. CLIMAS defines societal impacts as the ways that research, and the process of conducting research, influences the world beyond the academic realm. Societal impacts refer to the changes that research makes in the world, how, and for whom. We use the following five categories of impact:

  • Instrumental applications – tangible changes to plans, decisions, practices, or policies
  • Conceptual impacts – changes in people’s knowledge about or awareness of an issue
  • Capacity building impacts – enhancing the skills, expertise, or resources of an organization or group of people
  • Connectivity impacts – new or strengthened relationships, partnerships, or networks that endure after a project ends
  • Socio-environmental impacts – changes to social and/or ecological systems that result from actions taken because of research

A key finding draws attention to the mutual learning that occurs in CLIMAS projects. While the intensity of relationships fluctuates over time—sometimes interactions are frequent and other times sporadic and informal—the connections built through repeated interactions are crucial: partners learn from CLIMAS researchers and CLIMAS researchers learn from their partners. Perhaps less tangible than instrumental outcomes like economic policies or operational decisions, connectivity outcomes lay the groundwork for societal and environmental change.

This evaluation framework has been refined for use in the current CLIMAS funding cycle (2018-2022). G. Owen and A. Meadow are adapting and applying this framework to the Arizona Institutes for Resilience, the research institute where CLIMAS is housed at the University of Arizona. They were named as 2020 Fellows in Advancing Research Impacts in Society to develop a guidebook for evaluating the societal impact of climate change research using examples from CLIMAS and Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center projects. The guidebook was published in May 2021. Planning and Evaluating the Societal Impacts of Climate Change Research Project: A guidebook for natural and physical scientists looking to make a difference.