Most funding councils have a remit to ensure that their money is spent on research that makes a difference; ideally:
“A change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life”
This benefit is referred to as research impact which can be both tangible and intangible, and it can be felt at local, national, or global levels.
Research impact can take many different forms, such as:
- Improving health outcomes by developing new treatments or vaccines
- Enhancing education by developing new teaching methods or learning technologies
- Supporting economic growth by developing new products, services, or technologies
- Promoting environmental sustainability by developing new policies or technologies that reduce pollution or carbon emissions
- Supporting social justice by developing new policies or programmes that address inequality or discrimination
Measuring Research Impact
The impact of research can be measured in a variety of ways, such as through the number of publications, citations, or patents, as well as through more qualitative measures such as case studies, testimonials, or social media engagement.
The impact of research can also be evaluated through various metrics, such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the UK, which assesses the impact of research across different disciplines.
The importance of research impact lies in its potential to improve human well-being and address pressing societal challenges. By generating new knowledge, insights, and technologies, research can help to address complex problems and create new opportunities for growth and development. The impact of research can also enhance public trust in science and increase the visibility and relevance of research to society.
It’s wise to think about how your research proposal can make impact.
Think laterally and look for all of the possible contributions your work could make.
One of the key drivers of research impact is engagement and collaboration with stakeholders, such as industry partners, policymakers, or community groups.
By involving stakeholders in the research process, researchers can ensure that their work is relevant, timely, and responsive to real-world needs and challenges. Collaboration with stakeholders can also enhance the dissemination and uptake of research findings, as well as facilitate the translation of research into practice or policy.
Time spent planning which stakeholders will participate in your research, including the dissemination stage, can be useful when writing your research proposal.
You will need to convince the funders that you are maximising the possibilities of significant and lasting impact through your research.
Another important factor in research impact is the quality and rigour of the research itself.
High-quality research that is conducted using robust methods, rigorous analysis, and ethical principles is more likely to have a lasting and significant impact on society. Research that is transparent, reproducible, and open to scrutiny can also enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of research findings.
Look out for publication venues that proactively make research findings and data public, so that your work can be scrutinised by others.
Pay attention to communities that have a track-record of advocating rigorous research methods.
Creating Conditions For Impact
The impact of research can also be influenced by factors such as funding, infrastructure, and policy frameworks.
Adequate funding and resources can enable researchers to conduct high-quality research and engage in meaningful collaboration with stakeholders. Robust infrastructure, such as research facilities or data repositories, can also facilitate the conduct and dissemination of research. Policy frameworks that support research, such as intellectual property laws or open access mandates, can also enhance the impact and relevance of research.
Influencing policy is one of the most powerful impacts that research can make.
How can your work contribute to policy change?
In conclusion, research impact refers to the influence that research has on society, the economy, the environment, or other aspects of human well-being.
The impact of research can be both tangible and intangible, and it can be felt at local, national, or global levels. The importance of research impact lies in its potential to improve human well-being and address pressing societal challenges. The impact of research can be enhanced through engagement and collaboration with stakeholders, high-quality research, and supportive policy frameworks.
By prioritising research impact, we can ensure that research remains relevant, responsive, and valuable to society.