When Do Climate Services Achieve Societal Impact? Evaluations of Actionable Climate Adaptation Science
To cope with complex environmental impacts in a changing climate, researchers are increasingly being asked to produce science that can directly support policy and decision making. To achieve such societal impact, scientists are using climate services to engage directly with stakeholders to better understand their needs and inform knowledge production. However, the wide variety of climate-services outcomes—ranging from establishing collegial relationships with stakeholders to obtaining specific information for inclusion into a pre-existing decision process—do not directly connect to traditional methods of measuring scientific impact (e.g., publication citations, journal impact factor).
In this paper, we describe how concepts from the discipline of evaluation can be used to examine the societal impacts of climate services. We also present a case study from climate impacts and adaptation research to test a scalable evaluation approach. Those who conduct research for the purposes of climate services and those who fund applied climate research would benefit from evaluation from the beginning of project development. Doing so will help ensure that the approach, data collection, and data analysis are appropriately conceived and executed.