There are several ways of defining what is meant by research impact. Essentially it is a BENEFIT, a DEMONSTRABLE CHANGE or INFLUENCE.
The UKRI makes the distinction between Academic impact and Economic & Societal impact and it is the latter which we refer to as ‘research impact’:
“The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy”
A simpler definition by Professor Mark Reed, Fast Track Impact consultancy is:
“The good that researchers can do in the world”
Research impact is often looked at in the context of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) as a means of measuring research excellence and demonstrating how our research directly benefits the world around us.
Research Excellence Framework (REF)
Within the UK, the REF is a performance-based research funding system that was introduced for the first time in 2014 as a successor to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The first RAE was undertaken in 1986 to provide an explicit and formalised assessment process of the quality of research, with subsequent exercises taking place until 2008. REF is a process of expert review in higher education institutions (HEIs) which assesses the quality and reach of research across UK higher education, seeking to highlight areas of excellence, whilst benchmarking the quality of previously funded research and providing accountability for ongoing public investment in research. The four UK higher education funding bodies are jointly responsible for the undertaking of the REF exercise.
In addition to assessing the quality of outputs (e.g. journal papers) and the environment in which research is carried out, the REF became the first exercise to evaluate the impact of research outside of academia. UK HEIs submitted some 6,975 impact case studies to showcase the real-world impact of their research for REF2014.
Based on REF2014 data, a 4* impact case study is estimated to be worth around £324,000 to an institution in quality-related research (QR) funding over the course of the REF cycle (6-7 years on average. A high-quality impact case study represents the equivalent value of up to 7 high-quality research outputs. Following Lord Stern’s independent review of university research funding in 2016 and the policy commitment to impact in future REF exercises the decision was taken by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (superseded by UKRI in April 2018) to increase the weighting for impact from 20% of the overall total in REF2014 to 25% in REF2021.
Our commitment to demonstrating real-world impact from our research was recognised in REF2014, where the impact in several of our long-established research areas was rated as predominantly of world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) quality. Examples include:
- Social Work and Social Policy – 100% 3* or 4*
- Architecture, Built Environment and Planning – 87% 3* or 4*
- Business and Management Studies – 87% 3* or 4*
In March 2021 we made our submission to the REF2021 exercise. The results are expected to be announced in April 2022 following a period of review and audit.
Further information on the University of Salford’s REF2021 submission, including the final versions of the 30 impact case studies and 12 environment statements (1 institutional, 11 unit-level), can be found at: www.salford.ac.uk/ref
The Research and Enterprise directorate provides central support for impact-generating activities, including the following:
- Continued roll-out of impact action plans to support (primarily, but not exclusively) funded research activities: this includes working with recipients of internal RIPE funding, HEIF funding, KTPs and iCASEs and externally funded research projects with a demonstrable impact element
- Researcher Development Programme (SECRET): Impact, PE and Funding stream
This uses a blended learning approach, i.e. larger online workshops, online one-to-ones/small group sessions, pre-recorded modules, how-to videos, possible face-to-face activity where permitted.
Areas of training cover: introduction to research impact (also available to PGRs), writing with impact, policy engagement, research bidding development, public engagement.
- Revamped Research Impact and Public Engagement (RIPE) Fund, which will require match from Schools and which will provide a reporting mechanism to track impact and PE metrics (see Research Funding tab for further details)
- Support/funding to participate in research festivals, such as our Festival of Research, the ESRC Festival of Social Science, Manchester Science Festival etc. as a public engagement and impact generation mechanism (see Public Engagement for Research tab for further details)
Additional support is provided by School Impact Leads at School and discipline level in the form of:
- Introductory presentation/training session on impact and engagement to staff and PGRs
- Facilitation of impact/engagement workshops/discussions in subject and other groups of staff and students
- Mapping and identifying of staff with interest/potential/current activities in impact and engagement (identified and referred by line managers and research leads through PDR, career conversations etc.)
- One-to-one initial and follow-up support and guidance on impact and engagement for individual academic members of staff
- Promotion/awareness raising of impact and engagement
In addition to the support provided within the University, there are a number of external websites that offer a wealth of useful information around research impact.
Fast Track Impact https://www.fasttrackimpact.com/
This is the go-to website for all your impact questions and needs. Fast Track Impact is a consultancy established by Professor Mark Reed to support researchers, students and professional support staff with developing their impact at whatever level they may be. Professor Reed has visited the University on a number of occasions in recent years to deliver face-to-face training to our research community.
- Research impact guides
- Free online training
- Impact tools and templates
- REF resources
Vertigo Ventures https://www.vertigoventures.com/
Vertigo Ventures was founded to measure impact and works closely with clients to deliver high quality impact reporting, which provides clear and actionable insight into how individuals and organisations can maximise the reach and significance of their impact.
Vertigo Ventures provides a range of proprietary services, such as training workshops, consultancy services and the VV-Impact Tracker, all of which utilise an innovative online reporting framework known as VV-Impact Metrics.
The VV website contains the following impact resources:
- Impact blog
- Collecting research impact evidence eBook
- Impact culture handbook
- Support with meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
This website provides you with everything you need to know to engage with Parliament as a researcher.
It offers advice on:
- What interests Parliament?
- Why engage with Parliament?
- How Parliament uses research
- Ways to engage with Parliament
It also provides a number of ‘How To’ guides:
One particularly useful guide on Research with Impact in relation to REF2021 can be found here:
Our UoS Public Affairs team is also happy to help you make the links with central and local government – please contact Charlotte Morris (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the first instance.
Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).It brings together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.
The UKRI offers funding and support across all academic disciplines and industrial areas from the medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences, and the arts and humanities.
Further information on impact across the research councils can be found at: https://www.ukri.org/our-work/delivering-economic-impact/
Public engagement is an important pathway to impact activity for the purposes of developing and evidencing research impact and speaks to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) agendas.
If you are looking to get started with your public engagement activities, then the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) is the place to start. Its website hosts a diverse range of resources with regard to research impact in the context of REF and KEF, including:
- Briefing papers
- Consultation responses
- Evaluation reports
- Event reports
- Tools and frameworks
Each School has at least one Impact Lead to support the development of public engagement and impact-related activities within and across Schools and disciplines.
The Impact Leads sit on the Impact Leads Committee, which meets every other month and takes responsibility for supporting the strategic development of impact activities within School research groupings/clusters with a view to showcasing the University’s breadth of impact and public engagement activity and contributing to preparations for assessment exercises such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF). The Committee is chaired by the REF, KEF & Impact Manager (Research & Enterprise) and reports to the REF Steering Group.
School Impact Leads
School of Arts, Media & Creative Technology: Dr Pal Vik (email@example.com)
School of Health & Society: Prof Neal Hazel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cross-School Impact and Engagement Lead: Prof Andy Miah (email@example.com)
Research & Enterprise
REF, KEF and Impact Manager: Emma Sutton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Researcher Development Manager: Davina Whitnall (email@example.com)