HKU Research Assessment Exercise Colloquium annual Lecture: What is Impact in Social Sciences and the Law

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


HKU RAE Colloquium – Interdisciplinarity and Impact, from Sciences to Social Sciences: Artificial Intelligence, Reflection, Governance and Accountability

The latest session in HKU’s Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) annual colloquium series was presented by Professor Emilios Avgouleas on May 22, 2019. Professor Avgouleas – who holds the International Banking Law and Finance Chair at the University of Edinburgh and a distinguished research professorship at HKU – gave a talk on “Interdisciplinarity and Impact, from Sciences to Social Sciences: Artificial Intelligence, Reflection, Governance and Accountability”. He used the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 (a similar assessment model to Hong Kong’s RAE) to identify how interdisciplinary teams can maximise their influence and research impact within both the scientific (peer) and policy-making communities.

Professor Avgouleas considered the nature of impact in the context of social sciences and the difficulties in its measurement. In terms of the REF 2021, the impact case studies need to demonstrate a change, effect or benefit with reach and significance. He considered the specific indicators of impact for social sciences in the REF 2021, and used case studies from REF 2014 to demonstrate how the reach and significance of different types of impact could be articulated and evidenced.

After considering a specific interdisciplinary case study from REF 2014, Professor Avgouleas shared key lessons on what makes a 4* impact case study, in particular focussing on the impact and benefits, establishing links between the underpinning research and impact, ensuring the narrative is easy to understand, and providing robust and credible corroboration. He provided some analysis of the different forms of evidence used in impact cases in REF 2014 across the disciplines, and shared advice on how to boost impact in social sciences.

In the last part of his talk, Professor Avgouleas considered the challenges faced by cross-disciplinary research groups. In considering how interdisciplinary teams can maximise influence and research impact, he drew on complex issues in relation to, for example, artificial intelligence, modelling human behaviour, and legal and ethical challenges in life sciences.

HKU launched the annual colloquium series in preparation for RAE 2020. A number of prominent overseas scholars from different disciplines including mathematics, medicine, physics and architecture have been invited by the Vice-President and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Andy Hor, to share their ideas and insights based on their experiences of the UK’s REF.

HKU faculty members can view Professor Avgouleas’s powerpoint presentation here.
Period22 May 2019
Held atUniversity of Hong Kong, Ting Kok, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Impact
  • Social sciences
  • Law
  • REF
  • RAE
  • case studies
  • Symbiotic autonomy
  • symbiotic intelligence
  • entropy