What is social impact of research?
Research plays an important role when it comes to solving complex social problems, producing knowledge for policymaking, and enhancing innovation. Social impact of research refers to the outcomes and benefits of research that are used outside the academic institutions. Broadly speaking, social impact of research includes the interactions, practices and tools that researchers have developed over time with other societal actors.
For example, in the field of education, researchers help policymakers, teachers, schools, pupils and their parents by producing relevant information that can be used in schools and homes. At its best, one can describe social impact of research as a dialogical relationship between the various actors in society. GraphoGame is an example of such dialogue and a ‘carrier’ of social impact. Its development shows how the results of research expand from local settings to a global scale.
Solving local and global literacy problems with GraphoGame
The research behind GraphoGame started in the 1980s in Jyväskylä, Finland, where researchers at the University of Jyväskylä studied learning difficulties and collaborated closely with schools and children with learning difficulties. Over time, the combination of academic and practical work led to the development of learning materials, diagnostic methods, and training tools to be used by professionals and pupils in schools.
A turning point was the discovery of the letter-sound connection as a precursor of dyslexia. It was one of the findings of a longitudinal study and it helped researchers produce new understanding of dyslexia and reading processes. The finding brought together the explanation, prediction and prevention of dyslexia, which was crystallised in the development of GraphoGame. It soon became a motivating yet individual tool for children who were learning how to read.
In Finland, GraphoGame was distributed broadly, but researchers soon realised its potential in other languages. In collaboration with top universities around, GraphoGame has been researched in the following languages: UK English (University of Cambridge Centre for Neuroscience in Education), French (Aix-Marseille University), Dutch (University of Groningen), Portuguese (Politecnico do Porto), Spanish (Pontifical Catholic University of Chile), Chinese Pinyin (Beijing Normal University), Chinese Zhuyin (Academia Sinica), Norwegian (University of Stavanger), Swedish (Lund University), Cinyanja (University of Zambia), U.S English (Yale/Haskins laboretorie).
In any new language, GraphoGame is studied and developed with local researchers. This is paramount since each language and school system is unique. What started as a quest for understanding reading processes and dyslexia in the Finnish context, evolved into a global effort to tackle illiteracy.
Expanding social impact of research with GraphoGame
The example of GraphoGame shows how the different dimensions of social impact come together. First, it was the research findings that helped researchers to understand dyslexia. Second, to make use of that understanding led to the development of a training tool for children. Finally, global collaboration made the dissemination possible, expanding the use of GraphoGame.
It’s easy to see that today’s social problems, such as learning difficulties are complex and link many areas of life together. Learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, are connected to school systems, access to learning materials and individual support. Overcoming difficulties in learning plays an important role in the individual’s life as schools prepare them for working life. Being able to read and write is a basic need, a necessity for future success. In the end, problems related to illiteracy become questions of inclusion, democracy and empowerment. The solutions may require time to materialise but with the help of research, it is easier to understand the phenomena behind the problems and tackle them early on.
Check out GraphoGame today for more information on how this evidence-based literacy game is helping kindergarten and primary school children around the world to learn to read and spell in an engaging, simple and fun way.
Photo Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/vbxyFxlgpjM
Terhi Esko (M.Soc.Sci) is a researcher focusing on science, technology and innovation studies. Terhi Esko studied the development of GraphoGame in her doctoral dissertation. Currently she works at Tampere University studying the emergence of health tech and life science firms in Finland. Her doctoral dissertation ‘Societal Problem Solving and University Research. Science-Society Interaction and Social Impact in the Educational and Social Sciences’ will be publicly examined on May 15 2020 at the University of Helsinki at 13 o’clock (live streaming at http://video.helsinki.fi/unitube/live-stream.html?room=l6)