Evaluation of the Social Sciences in Norway: Report from the Principal Evaluation Committee

Katarina Eckerberg, Ole Mertz, Eva Liljeblom, Karin Helmersson-Bergmark, Jon Mitchell, Niels Vestergaard

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


The aim of the evaluation of Social Science research in Norway (SAMEVAL) was to review the present state of social science research in Norway as a basis for recommendations on the future development of research. The evaluation covered six research areas: geography, economics, political science, sociology, social anthropology and the economic-administrative research area. It included 3005 social scientists in total and 42 institutions, both 27 faculties/departments at universities and university colleges, and 15 publicly financed social science research institutes. The evaluation further comprised 136 research groups within those institutions.

Based on the six disciplinary evaluation reports, the principal committee finds that a large number of institutions and research groups are performing well across the social sciences, above the Nordic and OECD averages in terms of the bibliometric analysis (Damvad 2017). A high proportion of the research groups evaluated are performing very well. The distribution of scientific grades is rather even among the six evaluated disciplines, and centred around the two grades good and very good, but with Social Anthropology and Economics performing particularly well compared to international standards. Still, there is an opportunity to get much more out of the social science research, to make further international impact, advance theoretical debates and develop critical thinking. The principal committee therefore calls for striking a better balance between basic and applied research. For institutions with high levels of core funding, this might involve directly allocating core funding to basic research. Elsewhere, more funding might be allocated to ‘free research’ in pursuit of more theoretically driven research as formulated by the researchers themselves rather than steered by programmatic topics.

All of the panels were struck by the large number of institutions pursuing social science research, spread extensively over the country, with many research units separated even within a particular region. Creating critical mass of disciplinary research in rather small research groups and/or multidisciplinary environments therefore constitutes a considerable challenge. Various forms of national as well as international networking and collaboration within the disciplines is therefore imperative. The situation also calls for more strategic thought both by the Government and by the respective institutions as to who should do what, and how this might be sufficiently funded. In addition, the principal committee suggests that the PhD education could be strengthened by national coordination given the small numbers of disciplinary PhD students in almost all environments except the Oslo region.

Interdisciplinary research is a strong feature of the Norwegian research landscape as compared with many other countries. Partly, this could be a reaction to the stronger emphasis on strategic and/or thematic research but it is also likely a response to resolving the issue of many small social science environments. While the strong interdisciplinary research is a considerable asset, there are also associated risks in how to assure sufficient disciplinary depth and methodological innovation in such research.

The SAMEVAL evaluation called for assessing societal relevance and impact of social science research. However, a majority of institutions reported largely their dissemination activities, rather than the relevance and impact for different societal actors, suggesting that the methods and application of such assessments need to be further discussed and developed. Overall, however, there is no doubt that Norwegian social science has considerable relevance for a large range of public and private societal actors and activities, and that a large number of ‘good practice’ research impact cases were displayed by the social science institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLysaker
PublisherResearch Council of Norway
Number of pages51
ISBN (Electronic)978-82-12-03691-8
Publication statusPublished - 30.08.2018
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study


  • 512 Business and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluation of the Social Sciences in Norway: Report from the Principal Evaluation Committee'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this