Funders use of ‘targeting’ and ‘enforcement’ to shape research for societal impact

Kaare Aagaard, Irene Ramos-Vielba, Duncan Andrew Thomas

Research output: Contribution to conference without a publisher/journalPaperResearch


In this paper we explore how funders use funding to shape scientific research. We examine ‘targeting’ of funding instruments to shape research for societal impact, as well as ‘enforcement’ dimensions intended to ensure researchers satisfy the targeting. This frames funding targeting/enforcement as one important but often overlooked channel between macro-level research governance concerns, and micro-level research practices. We use exploratory document analysis of funding calls and instrument conditions to study three funding programmes with a societal orientation in three similar country contexts: Denmark, Netherlands and Norway. We find interesting variation in the strength and emphasis of targeting dimensions from case to case (targeting of thematic orientation, impact expectations, interdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity). Enforcement dimensions are also found to be varied (related to auditing events and enacting actors). Targeting and enforcement are further revealed to be dynamic, even at times overlapping processes. They can feature integrated funder involvement before and during funded research. This contrasts with previous literature, seeing research as shaped primarily during discrete accountability/evaluation events, largely not involving funders, and not integral to the funded research. We believe the targeting/enforcement process framing provides a more nuanced, systematic approach to funding-related research governance. It emphasizes that targeting and enforcement dynamics require empirical study and should not be assumed on the basis of traditional funding instrument categories. It also does not presuppose funding-related, extra-scientific shaping of research unfolds identically in every instance and context, and does not assume funding is always an undifferentiated, homogenous influence upon funded research practices.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date11 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event(How) Does Governance Matter?: Epistemic consequences of attempts to shape research -
Duration: 11 Feb 202112 Feb 2021


Conference(How) Does Governance Matter?


  • Enforcement
  • Funders
  • Funding instrument
  • Scientific research
  • Societal impact
  • Targeting

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