An Evaluation of Stakeholder Engagement in ICT Research Projects
Modern societies rely upon research to deal with social challenges through research and innovation (R&I) that is carried out in ICT research projects. ICT research projects are important in generating breakthrough technologies and translating these technologies into solutions for the wider society. In order to develop societally acceptable and desirable solutions, ICT research projects engage different stakeholders who play an important role in encouraging responsible outcomes. Despite the growing recognition of stakeholder engagement in ICT research projects, there is limited evidence in the literature to demonstrate its value. This gap is reflective of a general lack of discourse on qualitative evaluation of stakeholder engagement in ICT research projects. To adequately inform and support engagement activities in ICT research projects, particularly concerning the attainment of socially desirable outcomes, there is a need to understand the efficacy of stakeholder engagement. Therefore, to address this gap, the study synthesises the literature on stakeholder engagement, responsible research and innovation (RRI) and looks at the different approaches that are used to evaluate and understand the value of stakeholder engagement in a wider research context. The synthesis is done to inform a conceptual model which is then used to unfold and analyse the value of stakeholder engagement in attaining socially desirable outcomes in ICT research projects. The proposed conceptual evaluation model informs a qualitative investigation involving a case study of four ICT research projects. Findings suggest that the efficacy of stakeholder engagement in ICT research projects, particularly with regards to the attainment of socially desirable outcomes, is predominantly based on a focused identification of stakeholders, the relevance of the form of stakeholder engagement activities and the rationale behind the engagement. Therefore, to understand the value of stakeholder engagement in achieving socially desirable and acceptable outcomes in ICT research projects, a combination of three different approaches to evaluation, including theory-based, case-based and participatory approaches, is suggested. The study contributes to practice and theory by emphasising the vital interrelation between stakeholder engagement and the achievement of responsible outcomes in ICT R&I. The study guides better alignment of stakeholder engagement and R&I processes within ICT research projects in achieving positive outcomes for the society. It identifies specific elements of stakeholder engagement which researchers and practitioners should focus on to promote stakeholder engagement towards ensuring better R&I outcomes in ICT research. Furthermore, the research contributes to theory by looking at how evaluation theory can support understanding the value of stakeholder engagement in ICT research projects within the context of responsible research and innovation.
- PhD