Impact of Software Engineering Research in Practice: A Patent and Author Survey Analysis

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Existing work on the practical impact of software engineering (SE) research examines industrial relevance rather than adoption of study results, hence the question of how results have been practically applied remains open. To answer this and investigate the outcomes of impactful research, we performed a quantitative and qualitative analysis of 4,354 SE patents citing 1,690 SE papers published in four leading SE venues between 1975–2017. Moreover, we conducted a survey on 475 authors of 593 top-cited and awarded publications, achieving 26% response rate. Overall, researchers have equipped practitioners with various tools, processes, and methods, and improved many existing products. SE practice values knowledge-seeking research and is impacted by diverse cross-disciplinary SE areas. Practitioner-oriented publication venues appear more impactful than researcher-oriented ones, while industry-related tracks in conferences could enhance their impact. Some research works did not reach a wide footprint due to limited funding resources or unfavorable cost-benefit trade-off of the proposed solutions. The need for higher SE research funding could be corroborated through a dedicated empirical study. In general, the assessment of impact is subject to its definition. Therefore, academia and industry could jointly agree on a formal description to set a common ground for subsequent research on the topic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2020-2038
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • software engineering
  • practical impact
  • empirical study
  • survey
  • patent citations


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