There is a growing body of opinion that holds that researchers have a responsibility to articulate the impact of their research to non-academic audiences. Indeed, the way in which research funding is allocated now increasingly reflects researchers’ ability to generate, demonstrate and evidence their impact.
A renewed emphasis on the importance of both planning and evidencing research impact requires researchers to develop ever-more robust and integrated ‘pathways to impact’ (as illustrated by Research Councils UK) within research funding bids in order to identify and reward the contribution that high-quality research will make to the economy or to society.
Although there are as yet no specific guidelines on what constitutes impact evidence in terms of the next REF2021 exercise, the following pointers provide an indication of what researchers should be thinking about as they start to collect and collate evidence to support their impact.
General advice on collecting impact evidence
- If you are looking to generate impact from your research, ensure that you engage from the start with the University Impact, Engagement and Environment Coordinator (Emma Sutton) and your School Impact Coordinator
- Consider what indicators of impact are going to be used at the onset of the project – how will success be measured throughout and what will need to be captured?
- Complete a stakeholder analysis for your potential impact
- Be able to clearly demonstrate the pathway to impact: what were the steps taken, what is the embedded research etc.
- Be able to articulate the significance of the potential impact (reach, audience, policy change, technology development) – the “Why should we care?” question
- Use existing and well-understood baselines and gold standards to measure impact
- Remember to store all impact evidence on an ongoing basis in the Figshare repository (see below for further details)
Here are examples of what evidence could look like:
- Quotations from high profile figures
- Testimonials, interviews (always including who, when, where and job title and with consent to reproduce)
- Specific examples e.g. increased value of a company or number of lives saved by a new technology
- Published reports as a result of research conducted (especially reports commissioned by independent bodies or those external to the immediate project)
- Delegate lists to key meetings/conferences/exhibitions/events
- Letters of support from external bodies
**Look to use both qualitative and quantitative data where possible!**
Points to remember:
- Make sure that the evidence will be available in time to meet REF2021 deadlines
- Ensure that information is robust and credible
- Ensure that information is independently verifiable
- Link evidence to clear targets and indicate whether these were met or exceeded
- Provide evidence of research being widely disseminated, e.g. through tweets, blogs, access to websites, press coverage, broadcastings, downloads, sales
- Find ways of communicating the research as it progresses to develop wider impact along the way (not just at the end)
- Conduct exit interviews with the business if ending relationship/researcher if leaving institution – evidence of impact must be captured before departure
- Be able to demonstrate that without the research, the impact would not have occurred: how has the research made the difference?
The University now uses the Figshare data repository alongside USIR in order for researchers to store evidence relating to their research.
It is therefore good practice for all researchers to begin storing all their impact evidence in Figshare from now onwards so that an institutional repository of impact case study evidence can be built upon.
Currently, Figshare accounts have been created for all those researchers within each School who have been identified as potentials for submitting an impact case study to REF2021 and beyond.
Figshare can be accessed at the following link: https://salford.figshare.com/
Figshare also run monthly webinars to help researchers understand the basics of the system and it is highly recommended that you register for one of these at the following address:
Remember: the earlier you begin collecting and collating your impact evidence, the easier it will make the final impact case study submission!