Why does research impact matter?

Accountability for public spending on research is a key driver behind the impact agenda.

Demonstrating the impact of your research can raise your profile locally, nationally, and internationally.

Your toolkit

Your toolkit

The UWA Research Impact Toolkit

This Toolkit is designed to help you start planning an impact strategy for your research. Impact plans differ between disciplines, individuals and between projects.

This plan is designed to help enhance your research opportunities; leading to meaningful economic, environmental or social impacts.

The following tips and tools will help you begin planning your own knowledge exchange and impact strategy.

Impact in Brief

Research impact is positive change that has come about as a result of research

Research impact is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society and environment and culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.
Australian Research Council: Engagement and Impact Assessment
Impact is defined as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.
Higher Education Funding Council for England: Research Excellence Framework
Research impact is the verifiable outcomes that research makes to knowledge, health, the economy and/or society. Impact is the effect of research after it has been adopted, adapted for use, or used to inform further research.
National Health and Medical Research Council: Investigator and Synergy grants
Impact is the good that researchers can do in the world.
Mark Reed, Research Impact Handbook

Academics are now being asked to demonstrate the societal consequence of their research, outside of academia. Without peer review publications, can you demonstrate what change your research program has brought to Australia or globally?

Excellent research usually underpins excellent impact. However, a systematic approach to planning and executing a research impact pathway will help you to provide evidence of return on investment in your research and will help raise your research profile.

What are the different types of impact?

Your research may give rise to one type of impact or it may result in multiple impact types. Across and within the different disciplines and research sectors there will be considerable diversity in the types of impacts that can be achieved.

Browse impact types

Table of impacts

Type of impact Definition Examples
Understanding and awareness
  • People understand an issue better than they did before, based on your research
  • Often lead (in time) to other types of impact
  • Community knowledge about something that was previously unknown or poorly understood
  • Raised awareness of an important issue that gets limited media coverage
  • Uncovered the scale or urgency of an issue
  • Evidence of the negative unintended consequences of a policy of product
Attitudinal
A change in attitudes, typically of a group of people who share similar views, towards a new attitude that brings them or others benefits.
  • Public engagement might lead to a new appreciation for alternative views and more positive perceptions of people who hold differing views.
  • A change in attitudes of white male business executives towards female or non-white employees seeking board level positions in corporations.
Economic
Monetary benefits arising from research, either in terms of money saved, costs avoided or increases in turnover, profit, funding or benefits to groups of people or the environment measured in monetary terms. Your research ...
  • may have led to a reduction in the number of people visiting their local doctor, saving the health service, insurance providers or patients money.
  • might have led to a new product or service that has made/saved a company money.
  • might have demonstrated that a new or existing policy is not achieving its goal thus wasting money, leading to the withdrawal of that policy (saving money) or its replacement with something that works (providing better value for taxpayers’ money).
  • may have quantified the economic benefit to society of a new policy or estimated the benefits of an intervention based on your work for the natural environment using monetary valuation techniques.
Environmental
Benefits from research to genetic diversity, species or habitat conservation, and ecosystems, including the benefits that humans derive from a healthy environment.
  • Environmental benefits for nature alone (with no tangible benefit for people), or research that only benefits nature (e.g. saving a species from extinction)
  • Research that also then benefits people as a result of the benefits for nature (e.g. via health benefits from reduced pollution or increased well-being from access to green space).
  • Research that may lead to human behaviour changes that benefit nature (e.g. reducing consumption or using less plastic).
Health and well-being
Research that leads to better outcomes for the health of individuals, social groups or public health, including saving lives and improving people’s quality of life, and wider benefits for the well-being of individuals or social groups, including both physical and social aspects such as emotional, psychological and economic well-being, and measures of life satisfaction.
  • Research from disciplines such as clinical medicine, allied health, public health and biomedical sciences may reduce mortality and morbidity via interventions such as new drugs and treatments for diseases /conditions or public health interventions to shift individual behaviours towards more healthy outcomes.
  • Research that engages women affected by domestic violence in reading groups based on research into 19th-century feminist literature as a way of supporting and empowering this group.
  • Research on the impact of students on communities around universities has led to many institutions investing in purpose-built student accommodation in different areas, enhancing the well-being of their local communities through reductions in things like late-night noise and litter.
Policy
The contribution that research makes to new or amended laws, regulations or other policy mechanisms that enable them to meet a defined need or objective that delivers public benefit. Crucial to this definition is the fact that you are assessing the extent to which your research made a contribution, recognising that it is likely to be one of many factors influencing policy.
  • Your research may have been one of hundreds of studies in a particular area, but your work provided a missing link or some other crucial piece of evidence that made a policy possible.
  • You may simply have been the person who was able to advise those developing the policy.
  • You may have signposted your work alongside other key pieces of evidence and your evidence-based advice became crucial to the development of that policy. This would be research impact as long as your advice was based on research and informed and shaped policy in ways that enhanced the policy, enabling it to deliver benefits more effectively.
  • Your research may have been heard in committees and cited in policy documents, but if it wasn’t, you should be able to collect testimonials from members of the policy community explaining your role in the process, and the significance of your research.
Other forms of decision-making and behaviour change impacts
Whether directly or indirectly (via changes in understanding/awareness and attitudes), research can inform a wide range of individual, group and organisational behaviours and decisions leading to impacts that go beyond the economy, environment, health and well-being or policy.
  • Your research may change the attitude of a particular group towards others (e.g. attitudes towards non-white footballers or board members of companies), leading to changes in behaviour in sports training and selection resulting in more non-white footballers, or the promotion of more non-white employees to board positions.
  • Many other organisations who seek to base decisions on evidence from research, ranging from charities and non-governmental organisations to farmer co-operatives and arts organisations.
Cultural
Changes in the prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, discourse and patterns of behaviour, whether explicit “(e.g. codified in rules or law) or implicit (e.g. rules of thumb or accepted practices) in organisations, social groups or society that deliver benefits to the members of those groups or those they interact with.
  • Research on a classical composer may provide cultural impacts by opening up that composer’s work to new audiences through interpretation (via public lectures, media work or pre-concert talks) and influence how performers interpret, perform and record the composer’s work, leading to critical acclaim and enriching the cultural experience of the music-loving public.
  • Research on working-class entertainment might lead to changes in attitudes towards historic entertainment venues that had been left to fall into disrepair, leading to them being valued more greatly by members of the public. This might then lead to other forms of impact, for example, economic impacts based on restoring historic entertainment venues that bring in visitors and revenue to previously overlooked locations.
Other social
Benefits to specific social groups or society not covered by other types of impact, including, for example, access to education or improvements in human rights.
  • Your research on micro-grids for solar energy might enable communities living in remote parts of Africa to access electricity, enabling school children to have access to artificial light so they can do homework.
  • Your research on education in collaboration with researchers working on low-cost internet-connected devices might lead to the development of self-taught courses that give millions of children access to education that would otherwise not have been possible.
  • Your research on the relationship between Islamic law and international human rights might lead to legislative reform that leads in turn to the empowerment of groups that had previously been discriminated against.
Capacity or preparedness
Research that leads to new or enhanced capacity (physical, financial, natural, human resources or social capital and connectivity) that is likely to lead to future benefits, or that makes individuals, groups or organisations more prepared and better able to cope with changes that might otherwise impact negatively on them.
  • Your research might lead to the development of new infrastructure or equipment that will provide benefits to future users.
  • Your evidence may have enabled a charity to gain significant new funding for its future work.
  • Your research may have led to the creation of new habitats that will protect critical infrastructure from future flooding.
  • Key people may have new knowledge and skills that will enable them to generate impacts for their business or adapt to a change in the law.
  • As a result of research collaborations, you may be connected to a more diverse group of people or organisations who you trust. These connections and their capabilities can be deployed to respond faster and more effectively to a natural disaster.

Impact in Australia

The Australian government and its research funding bodies, the ARC and NHMRC now require researchers to characterise the reach and significance of their research impact.

Timeline: Research Impact in Australia


Reach and significance

Both the NHMRC and ARC evaluate research impact using the criteria for reach and significance together.

What does good impact look like?

Impact pipeline

Impact has only been achieved once you can identify a benefit. Usually there is a pipeline that is part of the research program and provides evidence of the engagement that links the research to the impact.

Engagement Impact
Inputs Activities Outputs Outcomes Benefits
Time and resource materials Engagement activities you undertake Products your engagement produce Changes that happen because of your research The overall measurable benefit your research has achieved
Examples:
  • Research income
  • Staff
  • Background IP
  • Infrastructure
  • Data
  • Collections
  • Researchers employed or placed outside academia
Examples:
  • Presentations to practitioner communities
  • Connections to cultural institutions, seminars/workshops, internships and engagement with the public
  • Public lectures, seminars, open days, school visits
  • Consultation with/advice to Government
  • Contributions/submissions to public enquiries
  • Translational research designs: working with user stakeholder and participatory groups
  • Mentoring external research partners
  • Serving on external advisory boards
Examples:
  • Event participation statistics (public lectures, cultural events, exhibitions, etc.)
  • Metrics which capture social media activity
  • Media coverage of exhibitions and new works
  • Patents granted, PCT applications, triadic patents
  • Number of contracts for research, consulting, expert witness and testing
  • Licensing agreements
  • Confidentiality agreements
  • HDR students in internships/placements
  • Authorship on public reports
Examples:
  • Repeat business with industry
  • Start-up/spin-out companies
  • HDR student employment destinations
  • Memoranda of Understanding (MOU)/Agreements
  • Expert witness in court cases
  • Expert consultancy
  • Co-funding of research outputs with research end-users
  • Book sales
  • Philanthropy linked to research support and in-kind support
  • Number of different clients with contracts worth greater than a threshold value
  • Citations in patents to traditional research outputs
Examples:
  • Established networks and relationships with research users
  • In-kind support from end-users
  • Meaningful change in society
  • Equity
  • Equality
  • Quality of life
  • Educational change
  • Community knowledge
  • Cultural investment
  • Employment
  • Technological advance
  • Industrial leveraging of academic knowledge
  • Significant institutional partnerships—e.g. Sydney Health Partners; various global research consortia, OECD, World Bank, World Health Organisation, UN, UNESCO

The benefits of research impact

Embarking on a research impact pathway will benefit both you and your prospective stakeholders.

Benefits for you (the researcher)

  • Building strong and trusted relationships outside of academia
  • Enhanced credibility within industry, government, community or groups
  • Enhanced reputation as an expert in your field
  • Greater awareness of, contribution to and membership of advisory committees
  • Opening up opportunities for undertaking new and relevant research by engaging more closely with the beneficiaries of your research
  • A focus or a diversification of your research program as a result of stakeholder feedback
  • Increased opportunity for testing or translation of your research in a practical or real life setting
  • Awareness of and access to different funding sources or in-kind support
  • Capacity building through shared resources and expertise
  • Developing new ways of communicating your research to the community
  • Wider socialisation of your research and outcomes
  • Articulating the benefits that have been realised as a result of your research
  • Raising awareness of the importance of committing public funds to support research

Benefits for your prospective stakeholders

  • Accessing future funding and new business opportunities
  • Developing new solutions to old problems
  • Increasing personal impact/influence through collaboration with researchers
  • Intrinsic motivation to "make the world a better place" or a desire to learn about the issues being researched
Taken from Reed, Mark. The Research Impact Handbook (2nd Edition)

Your impact

Planning your impact pathway

Understanding what research impact is and its purpose can help you to define and demonstrate the impact of your research, in order to secure funding.

The following step-by-step approach aims to help you think about how to plan, monitor and improve the impact your research will have on policy and practice.

Plan

The first step to achieving impact is to identify the impacts you want to achieve and incorporate them into your research from the beginning. Having a clear idea of what change could result from your research, and the stakeholders you will need along the way, will place you in a better position to achieve impact.

Even if you are half way through your project, it is never too late to set goals, identify stakeholders and make impact plans.

Identify your potential impacts

It can be difficult to identify the impacts that your research might generate. As a starting point, work through the following thinking prompts about stakeholders, your research, the environment and your potential impact:

Stakeholders
  • Who, outside of academia, might be interested in some aspects of your work?
  • Why are they interested?
  • Are they aware of your work?
  • Who has the influence to progress your work outside of academia?
  • Who could benefit as a result of your research?
Your research
  • What aspects of your research might be useful to someone?
  • Could you or someone else develop your work or apply it further?
  • Who would you need help from to make your work more relevant to outside academia?
The environment
  • What are the issues, policy areas, sectors of economy, practices, behaviours or societal trends that link to your research?
  • Could your research improve, inform, change or disrupt current policy, practice, standards or business?
  • Where are the problems, inefficiencies or out-dated thinking?
  • What are the barriers to change?
Potential impact
  • What can your research change for the better?
  • Who benefits, by how much, and in what way?

Stakeholders, beneficiaries and end users

Your plan should identify anyone who might be interested in, could benefit from, or could influence the progress of your research.

The terms stakeholder, beneficiary, and research end user all describe individuals or groups who are external to academia and who interact with your research. They are distinct from one another in terms of their proximity to the benefit or change achieved by your research.

Stakeholder
  • A, company, community or industry with some interest (realised or not) in the research intervention
Beneficiary
  • individuals, groups or organisations, whether targeted or not, that benefit directly or indirectly from the research
End user
  • person(s) or organisation(s) that will use or benefit from the product or service arising from the research
Potential stakeholders

The following are a broad list of stakeholder groups. Consider which ones of these might apply to your research and try to narrow them down.

The public Both individually and collectively, there are many ways to characterise target demographics like patients, readers, children, museum-goers, victims of crime, etc.
Investors in economic growth Individual companies, large corporations, industry sectors, intermediary organisations like contract research organisations, divisions in charge of industry social responsibility programs
R&D entities Individuals, businesses or industries looking to be technologically or methodologically distinct or to increase efficiency, safety, and/or efficacy
Public Sector Organisations Central government departments, local councils, clinicians; healthcare organisations/workers, service organisations like the police force, ambulance service, defence, education departments, health services, planning and policy divisions
Third Sector Organisations Charities, not-for-profits, and voluntary groups, policymakers
Governments and policy makers Members of parliament, peers, policy advisory bodies, think tanks, advisory boards, government policy-makers/regulators, national representative groups
Special interest groups National representative groups, professional and community advocacy organisations, trade organisations, trade unions, pressure groups, lobbyists or campaign groups, church groups, interest groups
Custodians Custodians of the land, groups who curate the physical environment – natural or man-made, land owners, land managers, historians, archivists
Media Media outlets who can distribute, explain or popularise your research: TV, radio, podcasts, blogs, vlogs, social media

It is important to embed stakeholder engagement within your research framework. This includes considering impact activities within your project plan and fostering commitment to the value and objectives of your stakeholder engagement within your project team. Consider inclusion as a way to empower your stakeholders and improve or focus your research design.

The Interested, Influential, and the Beneficiaries

The list of who might or should care about your research could be quite large. You may not have the capacity to engage with all your stakeholders at once. This may also not be strategic as there will be a continuum amongst these groups in terms of their interest, their level of influence and the benefit they will derive.

Beneficiaries
  • People or organisations whose lives or practises have been improved by your research
Influencers
  • Decision makers, like: politicians, directors,gatekeepers, heads of departments or projects and policy influencers
Interested
  • Allies who may already have established relationships with beneficiaries and influencers. Often cultural groups,charities, not-for-profits

You should consider which category your potential stakeholders could fall into, bearing in mind that these categories are not mutually exclusive. Your pathway will be most effective when you tailor your engagement activities to include a role for each stakeholder.

Stakeholders may require your support, knowledge and resources to exert power and influence within their organisation or network, so it is worth considering whether you can value add to their role.

  • Does your collaboration with a stakeholder give them additional expertise or the ability to access funding opportunities?
  • Can you deliver training workshops and events designed for specific user groups?
  • What influence do you have within their end-user market or hard to reach stakeholders?

Create your impact pathway plan

There are four steps in an impact pathway plan: conducting a stakeholder analysis, formulating key messages, writing SMART impact goals and making a plan.

Conduct a stakeholder analysis

From here, it is worth taking the time to list each stakeholder and contextualise what makes them important.

Begin by plotting your stakeholders within an Interest-benefit matrix and an interest-influence matrix. This process will prioritise which stakeholders you need to engage with:

Taken from Reed, Mark. The Research Impact Handbook (2nd Edition)
Formulate your key messages

Think about the key messages that you want to have for each stakeholder. Common impact goals are to:

  • Build awareness of your project or expertise amongst a target audience
  • Secure the commitment of a target group of stakeholders to the project aims
  • Influence specific policies or policymakers on key aspects
  • Encourage participation from research end users with the research
  • Grow your network
  • Commercialise an aspect of your research

Determine what it is you want to do and broadly how would you engage with stakeholders to make this happen. Be aware that industry moves quickly and therefore may value preliminary results and updates. Be open to new mediums of communication and communicate often. Think about the channels that your audience will prefer.

Write SMART impact goals

Applying the SMART acronym when developing goals is an easy way to take your key messages and focus them into achievable goals. By building in some simple evaluation measures at the start you'll know whether you have succeeded in meeting your objectives.

Stands for How do you address it within your goal?
S specific
  • What exactly should be realised?
  • Are all your acronyms defined?
  • Would your goal be clear to anyone with a basic knowledge of your work?
M measurable
  • Have you defined how you would know if the goal was achieved?
  • How would you measure or evaluate that?
A agreed upon
  • Is there agreement with all the stakeholders of what they goal should be?
  • Are they represented within the goal?
R realistic
  • Can you do this with the resources, knowledge and time available?
T time-based
  • Have you specified a reasonable time frame in which to achieve the goal?
Make a plan

Formalise your thinking by completing the Plan Your Impact Pathway template:

Adapted from Reed, Mark. The Research Impact Handbook (2nd Edition)

This will allow you to consider all the activities you want to undertake and how frequently you will undertake them, what you are aiming to achieve, the necessary resources required (budget, time, skills, competencies) and will highlight any risks or steps you need to take to mitigate potential risks.



Fund

Both the ARC and the NHMRC require researchers to articulate how their research has generated or will possibly generate impact, as a prerequisite for the distribution of funding. With a limited amount of money, and a choice between a number of proposals that may all have similar attributes, the impact section of your research funding proposal can make the difference between whether your project is chosen to be funded or not.

Should you be successful in receiving funding, it is important that you refer back to your original proposal, updating and expanding your original ideas into a fully-fledged impact plan. This will help you to organise, implement and track your engagement activities and impacts throughout the research process.

Who to speak to about funding

Research Development Team

Arts, Business, Law & Education
Wood, Ms Melina Research Development Adviser +61 8 6488 2936 [email protected] M253
Engineering & Mathematical Sciences
Chapman, Dr Caroline Research Development Adviser +61 8 6488 7354 [email protected] M459
Health & Medical Sciences
Dench, Dr Evenda Research Development Adviser +61 8 6457 2146 [email protected] M500
Science
Johnstone, Dr Vicky Research Development Adviser +61 8 6488 7255 [email protected] M082

Industry Engagement Team

Industry
Collings, Paul Acting Associate Director +61 8 6488 2623 [email protected] M082
Arts, Business, Law & Education
Gee, Ms Anna Industry Engagement Manager +61 8 6488 2338 [email protected] M213
Engineering & Mathematical Sciences
Robson, Susan Industry Engagement Manager +61 8 6488 7423 [email protected] M475
Health & Medical Sciences
Kumar, Rolee Industry Engagement Manager +61 8 6457 2714 [email protected] M475
Science
Collings, Paul Industry Engagement Manager +61 8 6488 2623 [email protected] M082

Engage

Your research will only have real world impact if it reaches the right people. Engaging stakeholders within your research can improve the quality of your outputs and impact, raise your profile and develop your skills. Communication activities are an important action you can take to increase the impact of your research.

Communication is often left to the end of the research process, but it plays a critical role throughout the project's lifetime. Engaging audiences early in the research process can help ensure relationships have developed by the time you come to publish your findings.

The key to a good stakeholder communications strategy is to know: who you want to reach; what you want to communicate; and how you want to reach them. This means thinking about the channels and tools you will use and the messages they will relate to. You will also need to develop a process for capturing evidence of your engagement.

Measure

Identify areas of your research where data collection is possible. Having baseline data to compare to along the way will help you monitor the performance of your research.

You should record information that will help you to:

  1. evidence your impact pathway
  2. demonstrate the significance and reach of your impact

Decide what information is required, who will use this information, where can it be found and how often. Some data may be collected at regular intervals, such as at the end of a research phase through a six-monthly download or through citation figures; others may be collected on an ad hoc basis.

Recording as you go is far easier than retrospectively gathering information or using secondary sources to evidence your impact.

Recording Engagement and Impact in the UWA Research Repository

Impact and engagement activities can be recorded within the UWA Research Repository using the Engagement/activities and Impacts tab.

Your Faculty Librarians can assist you with this process:

Other mechanisms to evidence your work

Evaluate

During the lifecycle of your research you will need to monitor the impacts your research is having. Know who is aware of your research, what the outputs are, and whether there have been any significant outcomes or benefits.

Evaluation of impact is often required by funders and governments who want to demonstrate the value of funding. Evaluating impact will also help you to: achieve your own personal goals, give you the potential to achieve high scores in impact evaluations which feed into rankings, enhance your reputation and attain financial reward.

Importance and benefits of evaluating impact

Impact can be evaluated for two important purposes:

  • evaluation of progress
  • evaluation of significance and reach
Evaluation of Progress: a diagnosis of whether your impact pathway plan is on track

This evaluation will help you know what is going well and what isn't. Evaluation will tell you whether the time you spent on engagement has been effective and allow you to switch your approach when things don’t go according to plan.

Evaluation of Reach and Significance: evidencing that you’ve achieved change

This evaluation will allow you to quantify the reach and significance of your research impact. Australian funders now require evaluation of the positive impacts arising from research within grant applications. The Australian Research Council Engagement and Impact Assessment requires all universities to demonstrate research impact.

Impact often occurs when multiple factors converge to produce change. i.e. impact from research is seldom linear. Your research may be one of many factors that produce a change in society. Evaluation helps to define your role in an outcome that may be indirectly achieved as a result of your research and engagement.


When to evaluate impact

Evaluation should take place at:
  • the initial stages of the project to establish baseline metrics in your impact pathway plan
  • throughout the lifecycle of the project as metrics change and the pathway to impacts begins to develop
  • the conclusion of the work to establish casuality between research, engagement activities and impact
  • beyond the project end to determine external impacts as a result of the research

What to evaluate

There are many different ways to evaluate your impact. The methods you choose depend upon the context of your research, your engagement activities and your ability to collect information about the impact. Methods may be quantitative or qualitative.

Below are some simple examples you may consider:
Activities Evaluate using:
Brand development and communication Brand awareness survey
Stakeholder events Number of attendees
Stakeholder characteristics: industry, government, community
Which stakeholders were influencers? Which were beneficiaries of the research? Which were both?
Event feedback survey
Record the dialogue(s) created as a result of the event.
Webinars Number of webinars
Number of attendees
Stakeholder characteristics: industry, government, community
Number of downloads
Networking Event types
Contacts created during networking
Opportunities arising
Seminars/conferences to
professionally develop non-academics
(e.g. Ted Talks, Pint of Science, Raising the Bar)
Number of attendees
Stakeholder characteristics: demographics; special interest group or community membership
Event feedback survey
Website development & updates Number of visitors
Number of clicks
Last update of content
Volume of out of date content on website
Social networking sites
(Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)
Subscribers / followers / friends
Clicks
Shares
Infographic Track views and downloads through social media
Blogs, Vlogs & Podcasts Track downloads and clicks through social media
The Conversation Number of times article read or cited
Crowd Research @UWA % Income created
Participants recruited
Number of data points collected
Research Impact Stories Number of times read or viewed
UWA News and media Number of press releases
Number of articles arising
Number of media interviews as a result of press release
Policy and evidence briefings Steering group positions held
Mentions of work in Handsard
Testimonials from industry and government
Citation of work within policy
Meeting minutes referencing research
Submissions to consultations
Contribution to stakeholder publications Number of documents
Where published
Readership
Open access data sharing Downloads
Influence – data citations and publications arising from work
Infrastructure Details of partnerships with stakeholders, equipment used
Number and type of repeat projects
$ Income in kind (time using equipment)
Expert consulting Consultancy types
Repeat business
$ income
$ income in kind
Commercialisation $ Research commercialisation income
Patents
Jobs created
Press releases
Share price
Industry practice change
Advisory group membership Testimonials
Influence upon guidelines, policy or position statements

How to evaluate: Use an evaluation framework

Evaluating your research impact is best done by taking the impact indicators you developed in your impact pathway plan; assessing their progress using a traffic light system and planning your next steps.

Collectively, your impact indicators together should give you a good overall picture of the impact your research has had.

Surveys
Qualtrics

Qualtrics is a simple to use web-survey tool to conduct surveys and evaluations.

Testimonials

Sometimes testimonials are the best way to evidence direct causation between research and its impact.

Testimonials can also be a powerful way to build your relationship with the end users of your research. It is often useful to obtain testimonials early in the relationship, especially where key staff are expected to turn over during the life cycle of the project.

When requesting a testimonial, treat it as an opportunity to interact with end users and clients and ascertain how they feel the research is progressing. Encourage end users to take the opportunity to write a testimonial to provide you with feedback, both good and constructive so that you don't feel as though you are asking for compliments.

Consider:
  • framing the request in relation to your career or institution’s goals
  • ask the endorser to reflect on how you have helped them achieve their strategic goals, and offer to help them further
  • ask for both positive and negative feedback
Testimonials should:
  • be provided by a valid end-user/ stakeholder. e.g. company director, clinical staff using a product/ service, government minister (policy), influential cultural figure
  • richly describe and explain the reach and significance of your impact
  • be robust and credible
  • contextualise change by linking to clear targets or baselines
  • contain a concise, quotable summary of the key points that can be used as endorsement
  • preferably be written on company letterhead and include the endorser's position title to ensure legitimacy of what has been said (unless it is a personal endorsement)
  • include company signature and details where the endorser sends the testimony via email
  • include informed consent as well as permission sought to publish part/ all of the testimonial in future
  • contain positive, constructive feedback so practices can improve


Communicate

At some point you are likely to need to present the benefits of your research findings – either formally or informally.

Communication uses essentially the same tools and channels as engagement, however your relationship with your stakeholder is now at a more mature stage.

Your key objectives are to:

  • maintain a positive connection with your stakeholders
  • produce evidence of your engagement and impact outside of academia
  • communicate your impact
  • begin your next cycle of engagement

 

 

 

 

Communication activities:

Reputation

Throughout your pathway to impact, the engagement activities you carry out - including stakeholder collaborations will enhance your researcher profile, enabling you to develop strong professional relationships and build upon your reputation.

Engaging with your stakeholders and evidencing your research findings can help to build your networks and potentially open up opportunities for further research outcomes and collaborations.


Next idea

At this point, you have implemented your research plan, engaged with your stakeholders, measured and evaluated your outcomes and reported your impact findings to your stakeholders.

By following this process, you will have built upon your knowledge of impact, grown your networks and opened up new opportunities to further your research ideas.

Now, you can reflect on your previous pathways to impact, determine what went well, how your impact plan might have been improved and establish new ways to engage with your stakeholders to ensure you build long-term, two-way and trusting relationships with those who will use your research.


Impact case studies

Impact case studies

In both Australia and the UK, accountability for public spending on research has been a key driver for the implementation of impact and engagement reporting. Case studies are used to demonstrate impact contextually, using a range of metrics, measures and pathways. These case studies include the impact achieved, the beneficiaries, timeframe of the research impact and countries where the impact occurred. They also include what strategies were employed to enable translation of research into real world benefits.

As an academic, you may have to construct an impact case study in order to be competitive within your grant application to the ARC and/or NHMRC. Alternatively your research may be part of the Australian Research Council’s Engagement and Impact Assessment, either for the University of Western Australia or as part of another university’s submission.

Features of a good impact case study

A good impact case study is a plain language narrative that clearly defines how a program of research has caused change. The narrative will convincingly outline the reach and significance of impact achieved by the research program and these claims will be backed up by robust evidence.

Narrative Reach Significance Evidence
Have clearly established the link between the impact, the research program, and the researchers role Outlined the extent/breadth, and/or diversity of the beneficiaries of the impact Outlined the degree to which the impact has enabled, enriched, influenced, informed and/or changed the performance of policies, practises, products, services, culture, understanding, awareness, and/or wellbeing of the beneficiaries of the research Impact generally arrives from high quality research programs
Used direct and plain language Were able to provide examples of global reach Were able to provide examples of global significance Makes use of testimonials to link research to impact
Avoided technical jargon and acronyms When reach wasn’t global – were able to describe the importance of reaching a narrow target group When significance wasn’t global – were able to show how they addressed a challenge uniquely felt by a particular group or on a sub-national scale Have evaluated their research using qualitative and quantitative methods to demonstrate impact achieved
Avoided unsubstantiated adjectives like: promising, significant, invested, heavily, excellent, fundamental, expanding rapidly, many, substantial… Firmly grounded the context of their reach by using language specific to place: e.g. “In remote Western Australia and the Northern Territory...” Linked the impact to beneficiaries and made claim to its influence by using language use specific to groups “to the government” or situations “...for the first time…” Used secondary data collections or examined their research from a difference disciplinary lens to test claims of impact.
Were able to demonstrate change by having a clear picture of baseline

Examples of good impact case studies

Read impact studies that were rated high in the 2018 ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment.

Read a selection of the highest rated (4*) case studies from the UK’s 2014 Research Excellence Framework.


Multiple vs single impacts

As you write an impact case study, you will have to decide what impacts you are able to present. Mature impact (with evidence) may not yet have occurred and the relationship between your research and its impact may be influenced by factors outside your control. Within grant applications, character counts restrict the depth and breadth of the case study.

You may be faced with the strategic decision to discard multifactorial impacts in order to have a narrative that directly shows the relationship between you, your research and its impacts within the character limit of your application.

Analysis of UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) Impact Case Studies showed that high-scoring impact case studies described on average 2.8 impacts. In comparison, low scoring case studies described an average of 1.8 impacts. So, case studies with a range of different impacts were more common in high scoring submissions.

However, when looking at only the high scoring impact case studies single and multiple impact case studies were present in similar proportions. Therefore, case studies clearly demonstrating a single, highly impressive impact can be equally as competitive.

When character counts limit your ability to say ‘everything’, the characters that should be sacrificed are those that describe your pathway to impact in intricate depth and detail. It can be hard to let this text go, especially when the impact achieved may not reflect the iceberg of effort underneath, however, 68% of low-scoring case studies forgot to articulate benefit and focussed instead on pathway to impact.

Information Source: Fast Track Impact “What made a 4* impact case study in the REF2014?”


Australian Research Council Engagement and Impact Assessment

On 7 December 2015 the Australian Government launched its National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). One of the measures under the agenda was for Australia to introduce a national assessment of the engagement and impact of university research.

The methodology for the ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment (EI 2018) was developed following consultation with university and industry stakeholders through a Steering Committee, working groups and a pilot study in 2017.

EI 2018 was implemented as a companion exercise to Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). The EI 2018 key documents outline the submission requirements for universities that participated in EI 2018. Assessment panel members, comprising a mix of academic and research end-user expertise, assessed submissions from all Australian Universities.

The inaugural Engagement and Impact Assessment took place in 2018 (EI 2018) to assess how well researchers are engaging with end-users of research and shows how universities are translating their research into economic, social, environmental, cultural and other impacts.

The results of EI 2018 are presented in the Engagement and Impact Assessment 2018-19 National Report which is available via the ARC Data Portal, along with the highly rated impact studies and assessment outcomes.

ARC Data Portal

The ARC Data Portal contains:

UWA Research Impact Case Studies

The University of Western Australia were highly recognised in the Engagement and Impact Assessment 2018-19 National Report. This assessment was designed to provide clarity to the Government and Australian public about how our investment in university research has translated into meaningful benefits beyond academia.

Fourteen disciplines were recognised for the translation of their research beyond academia into the beneficial impact upon society, the economy and/or the environment.

You can explore the highly rated UWA research Impact case studies, ranging from impact on culture, business and policy to environment and health:


The UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) Impact Case Studies

What is the REF?

The REF is the UK's system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It first took place in 2014 and is conducted every 6-7 years.

Each university makes an institutional submission to REF which is broken down into disciplinary units, known as Units of Assessment (UoAs). REF assessments are a process of peer review, carried out by an expert sub-panel in each UoA.

Historically REF has had three main purposes:
  • providing accountability for public investment in research
  • providing benchmarking information
  • informing the selective allocation of funding, known as QR Funding

The REF is undertaken by the four UK higher education funding bodies: Research England, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland (DfE).

The shared research assessment aim for these funding bodies is to secure the continuation of a world-class, dynamic and responsive research base across the full academic spectrum within UK higher education.

REF Impact Case Studies

You can browse all of the REF case studies, or search for specific case studies using the REF case studies using the Research Excellence Framework website's search function. :

Listed here are a selection of highly rated REF case studies from the 2014 REF:


Your resources

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From the toolkit

Workshops

Tue 13 Aug 2019 : Fast Track Your Research Impact

Prof Mark Reed

Prof Mark Reed

Slides from the event

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      Frequently asked questions

      What is impact?

      • Research impact is positive change that has come about as a result of research.

      Why should I care about impact?

      • Both the ARC and the NHMRC require researchers to articulate how their research has generated or will possibly generate impact, as a prerequisite for the distribution of funding.
      • Throughout your pathway to impact, the engagement activities you carry out - including stakeholder collaborations will enhance your researcher profile, enabling you to develop strong professional relationships and build upon your reputation.

      What are the benefits of including impact in my research?

      • Embarking on a research impact pathway will benefit both you and your prospective stakeholders.

      How do I start planning for Impact?

      • The first step to achieving impact is to identify the impacts you want to achieve and incorporate them into your research from the beginning. Having a clear idea of what change could result from your research, and the stakeholders you will need along the way, will place you in a better position to achieve impact.

      How do I obtain advice on Impact?

      • We're here to help, contact the Research Impact and Assessment team.
      • Attend a Research Impact workshop or browse the archive.

      What are the different types of Impact?

      • Your research may give rise to one type of impact or it may result in multiple impact types. Across and within the different disciplines and research sectors there will be considerable diversity in the types of impacts that can be achieved.

      Does impact affect research funding?

      • Both the ARC and the NHMRC require researchers to articulate how their research has generated or will possibly generate impact, as a prerequisite for the distribution of funding. With a limited amount of money, and a choice between a number of proposals that may all have similar attributes, the impact section of your research funding proposal can make the difference between whether your project is chosen to be funded or not.

      How do I determine the impact my research will have?

      • The first step to achieving impact is to identify the impacts you want to achieve and incorporate them into your research from the beginning.
      • Impact has only been achieved once you can identify a benefit. Usually there is a pipeline that is part of the research program and provides evidence of the pathway that links the research to the impact.

      How do I identify the stakeholders of my research?

      • Your plan should identify anyone who might be interested in, could benefit from, or could influence the progress of your research.
      • The terms stakeholder, beneficiary, and research end user all describe individuals or groups who are external to academia and who interact with your research. They are distinct from one another in terms of their proximity to the benefit or change achieved by your research.

      How do I engage with those who are affected by my research?

      • The key to a good stakeholder communications strategy is to know: who you want to reach; what you want to communicate; and how you want to reach them.

      How do I measure impact?

      • Identify areas of your research where data collection is possible. Having baseline data to compare to along the way will help you monitor the performance of your research.

      What tools are available to help me record impact?

      • Impact and engagement activities can be recorded within the UWA Research Repository using the Engagement/activities and Impacts tab.

      How do I evaluate the impact my research is having?

      • Evaluating your research impact is best done by taking the impact indicators you developed in your impact pathway plan; assessing their progress using a traffic light system and planning your next steps.

      What is the Impact & Engagement Assessment?

      • The inaugural Engagement and Impact Assessment took place in 2018 (EI 2018) to assess how well researchers are engaging with end-users of research and shows how universities are translating their research into economic, social, environmental, cultural and other impacts.

      What are research impact case studies?

      • As an academic, you may have to construct an impact case study in order to be competitive within your grant application to the ARC and/or NHMRC. Alternatively your research may be part of the Australian Research Council’s Engagement and Impact Assessment, either for the University of Western Australia or as part of another university’s submission.

      What is the REF?

      • The REF is the UK's system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. It first took place in 2014 and is conducted every 6-7 years.
      • Each university makes an institutional submission to REF which is broken down into disciplinary units, known as Units of Assessment (UoAs). REF assessments are a process of peer review, carried out by an expert sub-panel in each UoA.

      What is the National Innovation and Science Agenda?

      • On 7 December 2015 the Australian Government launched its National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). One of the measures under the agenda was for Australia to introduce a national assessment of the engagement and impact of university research.

      What are reach and significance?

      • Both the NHMRC and ARC evaluate research impact using the criteria for reach and significance together.

      Submit a question or provide feedback

      Our team of Research Impact experts are happy to answer any questions or suggestions you have regarding Research Impact at UWA.

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