In the next Perspectives on Science seminar, Anita Välikangas (University of Helsinki) will give a talk on “What makes research relevant? – A literature synthesis, and its implications on the IPCC’s policy relevance“.

The seminar takes place in hybrid format in person and online via Zoom from 14:15 to 15:45 on Monday the 13th of March 2023. To join the seminar, please contact for the location or Zoom invitation.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.


Several organisations and actors identify relevance as one of their central targets. This notion is used in several levels of knowledge production, ranging from practices to ideal research outcomes. This article offers a review on the uses of relevance in recent academic discussion, identifying eight main ways of discussing relevance. It shows how relevance is being used in several ways, ranging from societal meaningfulness and transdisciplinarity to the relevance of data and evidence at the context of scientific explanation.  

This paper argues that we need to understand better the relationship between these various forms and levels of relevance. This lack of clarity leads to vagueness surrounding the characteristics of policy relevant research. As a case study, the paper reflects how these different portrayals of relevance are visible in discussion about the goals of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This case shows that the organisation utilised several formulations of relevance while maintaining its target of policy relevance. The findings of this study are beneficial to research policy, and to the design of actions and projects aiming at policy relevance.  

Author bio:

​​​​​​​Anita Välikangas is a doctoral researcher in practical philosophy at the University of Helsinki and a member of TINT (Centre for Philosophy of Social Science) and HELSUS. She is currently finalising her PhD thesis about the role of values in research policy, looking at how people turn grand challenges into executable research topics.