From a seminar room to an oven – a case of societal impact of research

The need of societal impact of research or research project is nowadays highlighted not only by the University but by each and every research funding source. Societal impact has many faces, to the extend, that everyone knows it, but nobody can say how it really looks or should look like. One thing is clear, research or knowledge, must have an impact on people in general, preferably, a positive impact. The number of reads, or attendance could be, and often is, used as a measure of the societal impact of research. However, the actual outcome of how the obtained knowledge has effected a person is, from that numbers, unknown.

Here is a simple and very specific example of societal impact of academic activities. Within an ongoing Horizon2020 project CERERE (Cereal Renaissance in Rural Europe) two Finnish classe verte (en. green class) were organised in summer 2018. Theoretically, a classe verte simply by being one of the types of a field trip has the potential for high  societal impact. The second Finnish classe verte was organised in open-air museum of Seurasaari in Helsinki together with collaboration with Maatiainen ry, under the tile Ancient grains live (fin. Vanhat viljat elävät). However, as a co-organiser, a researcher, and surely not a farmer, I have not expected to experience any societal effects of a seminar on ancient grains. I was wrong.

Picture by Urszula Ala-Karvia

The event has presented several aspects of ancient grains; from their history, availability to theirs durability and sustainability. Among the invited speakers was Eliisa Kuusela, who not only has proven to be a good speaker, but an excellent sourdough bread maker. She presented her bread-making practices, in detail explained the advantages of sourdough and offer tasting of four different sourdough breads (picture 1). At that particular moment, all the basic human senses; sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste, were processing the knowledge about ancient grains.

Picture by Urszula Ala-Karvia

Whenever because of the new knowledge, the sensual experience, or the two combined, the direct effect of that project event was baked in my oven already several times. Together with the growing number of self-baked sourdough breads, the number of its consumers has been increasing (there must be something culturally meaningful in sharing a bread) and with that, the recipients of the knowledge of ancients grains.

Now, not only my family can enjoy a fresh, and presumably more health, bread, but also I can state that the CERERE project has truly made an actual societal impact.