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Scaling Science

October 2, 2019

Why scaling science?

For IDRC, “scaling impact” implies optimizing results in ways that will matter to people and our planet. By critically reflecting on how we can make the most of our investments in research and scale impact, we have learned that there is no single approach or method to make this happen.

Scaling science is borne of the belief that we can be more systematic and scientific about the way we scale, and that by doing so we increase the likelihood that our research will effect meaningful change. Scaling science is about scaling the positive impacts of innovation while carefully studying how scaling unfolds.

IDRC did not invent the scaling science concept; it is a description of the creativity and imagination of the innovators we have worked with and our reflections on their work.

Understanding scaling in research for development

To inform our understanding of scaling in research for development, IDRC explored the work of researchers who aimed to produce impacts at scale. This led to IDRC’s approach to scaling as a means to achieve impact that matters, and an important challenge to the predomi­nant more-is-better paradigm of scaling. Findings of this study are available in several open access formats.

Learn more about scaling for meaningful change, in a new and open access book.

Scaling Impact: Innovation for the Public Good

by Robert McLean and John Gargani (Routledge/IDRC, 2019)  

English French Spanish

View the video of the book’s launch at the Center for Global Development (February 5, 2020)


Read our feature article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review

Scaling Science

by John Gargani and Robert McLean (SSIR, 2017)




Read our post on the LSE Impact Blog

Scaling what works doesn’t work: we need to scale impact instead

by Robert McLean, John Gargani and Dena Lomofsky




Guidance for researchers who aim to scale impact

Successful scaling requires ongoing attention — from the framing of a research project, through its implementation, to its reporting, sharing, and beyond. The Scaling Playbook draws on lessons from scaling science to guide researchers through considerations that can help them to put their scaling intentions into action. 

Find out how to incorporate scaling science into a research project

The Scaling Playbook: A Practical Guide for Researchers​

by Hayley Price-Kelly, Leonie van Haeren and Robert McLean (IDRC, 2020)

English French Spanish



Evaluating the results of IDRC’s efforts to scale impact

Scaling was a key objective in IDRC’s 2015–2020 strategic plan. An evaluation of IDRC’s scaling strategy will assess how, and how well, IDRC has acted on its intention to scale. The evaluation will also draw out lessons to inform future work, considering experiences and perspectives of the global research community.

Read more about the evaluation and its results

Evaluation of IDRC’s strategy to scale research results

English French 




Ongoing learning and dialogue about scaling science

IDRC’s understanding of scaling science is based on experience. We continue to promote ongoing dialogue and learning about scaling to inform this evolving understanding.   

Stay tuned for results of the scaling Xchange

IDRC is convening a gathering of researchers from across disciplines and sectors to share experiences, identify opportunities for collaboration, and explore areas for future research on scaling.

Stay tuned for results!





Learn more about early conversations around scaling 

In 2016 we convened a meeting of international partners to discuss the issue of scale and scaling at the American Evaluation Association national conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  Learn more about these conversations in our Special Meeting Report. 

Special Meeting Report (IDRC, 2016)

English French