Salla Atkins, Rebecca Boden, Norma Daykin, Jaakko Kuorikoski, and Elina Mäkinen
New Social Research, Tampere University

Contact information: salla.atkins (at); rebecca.boden (at); norma.daykin (at); jaakko.kuorikoski (at); elina.makinen (at)



The production of socially, culturally, and economically useful knowledge has long lain at the heart of the university endeavour. In more recent, neoliberal, times this imperative has become less relational and more functional (Nedeva 2008). Scientific research activity is increasingly described through terms such as ‘impact’, ‘public engagement’, ‘public understanding of science’, or ‘third mission’. Such shift in emphasis presents challenges in university settings, as these terms are derived from pressures to demonstrate value for public spending, achieve maximum strategic advantage in knowledge economies, and transform conceptualizations of research impact. Additionally, this change affects research ethics and values, relationships to different stakeholders, and skills needed to create research findings that are seen as valuable.

In this session, we hope to explore the challenges thrown up by the ‘third mission’ of universities in four dimensions.


  1. Challenges of knowledge production: the impact of ‘impact-type’ work on agenda setting; maintaining scientific and intellectual integrity; the production of usable outputs for policy/practice; and meeting performance requirements of universities.
  2. Challenges of knowledge translation: the difficulties of interpreting evidence and dealing with the shifts in meaning that can arise as research findings move outside academic discourse and are taken up by stakeholders.
  3. Challenges of implementation: how researchers understand the needs of stakeholders, policy imperatives, and environments, and adapt to them.
  4. Challenging relationships: issues around how stakeholder engagement can be incorporated into the research processes whilst preserving scientific integrity.



Nedeva M (2008) New tricks and old dogs? The ‘third mission’ and the re-production of the university, World Yearbook of Education 2008: Geographies of Knowledge, Geometries of Power: Framing the Future of Higher Education, by D Epstein, R Boden, R Deem and F Rizvi, S Wright, London: Routledge.