DEFINITION OF IMPACT

Put simply, impact in this context is the effect of research outside academia. There are multiple definitions of impact. The Australian Research Council definition is:

“Research impact is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research”.

The National Health and Medical Research Council states:

“NHMRC defines the impact of research as the verifiable outcomes that research makes to knowledge, health, the economy and/or society, and not the prospective or anticipated effects of the research.”

Research metrics, such as citation counts, journal impact factor and h-index, while relevant in an academic environment, do not represent this type of impact. Understanding the impact of our research requires a different approach to the research planning process.

THE IMPORTANCE OF IMPACTFUL RESEARCH

Planning for impact supports the strategic goals of the University and ensures our research reaches those for whom it is intended.

Griffith University has always been focused in the effect it has on its immediate and the wider community. One of the core commitments of Griffith University’s - Creating a future for all – Strategic Plan 2020 -  2025 is “Engagement Partnering for impact domestically and globally”. This will be realised through partnering “strategically for impact at local, national and international levels, becoming even more visible as contributors to public debate, public policy and cultural life in Australia and beyond”. The University also aspires to “carry-out large-scale research with a focus on end-user impact”.

The University commits to undertake “socially relevant research to ensure that the future brings benefits for as many people as possible” and to provide “relevant research that aims to address the major problems of the day”.

There is now an increased emphasis on research impact in research grant applications. For example, NHMRC 2020 Investigator Grants Assessment Criteria allocate 20% to ‘Research impact’ as part of the ‘Track Record’, which is “the value of an individual’s past research achievements, relative to opportunity, not prospective achievements, using evidence”.

The Australian Research Council provide opportunities in the Research Opportunity and Performance Evidence section for an academic to describe “the identifiable benefits of their research outside of academia”. Applicants are also asked to describe the potential outcomes and benefits of their research. For a scheme such as ARC Linkage, focused on partnering with external organisations, ‘Benefit’ is the highest weighted assessment criteria.

ENGAGEMENT AND IMPACT 2018

Griffith University was well represented in the highly scored impact studies in the Engagement and Impact 2018 exercise across a range of research areas. Some of the impact case studies that scored a ‘high’ are available on the ARC site:

Discover more

Examples of case studies

The Australian Research Council has published the impact case studies that scored highly in the Engagement and Impact 2018 exercise. These are searchable by Field of Research, Institution, SEO code and other filters.

Celebration of Griffith's Research Impact

See the Research with Impact pages to explore some of our great stories

Explore more

TOOL KIT

Planning for impact

This is variously called ‘Approach to Impact’ or ‘Pathway to Impact’ One way of looking at the question is the Australian Research Council’s ‘Research Impact Pathway’ which describes the process from Inputs to Activities, to Outputs, to Outcomes, to Benefits. All of these processes lead to the impact (the ‘Benefit’ in this graph).

Research Impact Pathway

Inputs

  • Research income
  • Staff
  • Background IP
  • Infrastructure
  • Collections

Activities

  • Research work and training
  • Workshop/ conference organising
  • Facility use
  • Membership of Learned Societies and Academies
  • Community and stakehodler engagement

Outputs

  • Publications including e-publications
  • Additions to national collections
  • New IP: Patents and inventions
  • Policy briefings
  • Media

Outcomes

  • Commercial products, licences and revenue
  • New companies - spin offs, start ups or joint ventures
  • Job creation
  • Implementation of programs and policy
  • Citations
  • Integration into policy

Benefits

  • Economic, health, social, cultural, environmental, national security, quality of life, public policy or services
  • Higher quality workforce
  • Job creation
  • Risk reduction in decision making

How do I work out what impact my research is having (or could have)?

The impact a research area will have varies and can range across various categories.

life image

Academic Esteem, Teaching and Learning

  • Change in academic thought leadership
  • Change in organisational growth
  • Change in university’s external research profile
  • Change in work practices
life image

Economy, Commerce and Organisations

  • Change in collaboration with public sector partnerships
  • Change in community participation
  • Change in cultural enrichment
  • Change in demand for products
applyimage

Environments (Planet, air, plant life, wildlife)

  • Change in access to water
  • Change in alternative energies
  • Change in health and wellbeing
  • Change in climate change policy
study image

Health and welfare

  • Change in clinical outcomes for patients
  • Change in communication and social inclusion skills
  • Change in competitiveness
  • Change in costs
study image

International development

  • Change in marketplace practices
  • Change in revenue
  • Change in research funding from international bodies
  • Change in influence on international policy development
life image

Practitioners and Professional Services

  • Change in campaign implementation
  • Change in ease of access to finance
  • Change in economic growth
  • Change in employment
applyimage

Public policy, public services and the law

  • Change in ease of access to regulatory information
  • Change in engagement with national bodies
  • Change in fair wages
  • Change in operational costs
study image

Society, Culture and Creativity

  • Change in community participation
  • Change in curricula
  • Change in equality in society (eg: quality of living)
  • Change in population density – immigration, emigration

Identifying end users of my research

Research can have relevance to many individuals and organisations. Beneficiaries are individuals or groups who are affected by, influenced by, or experience an improvement as a result of the research. Stakeholders are groups or individuals who are affected by (or can effect) a decision action or issue related to the research.

It can help to identify who your beneficiaries and stakeholders might be right from the start. This will then assist in any planning for collaboration and consultation plus the potential audiences for communication throughout the research process.

What can be used as evidence of impact?

The first question might be ‘what can be measured’? Evidence of impact can take many forms and will be highly dependent on an individual research project. It is highly advisable to collect information and evidence as the activities occur rather than realising later that there was an outcome related to an activity you have been involved in, and trying to retrospectively find the details to record.

Evidence of work with stakeholders could include annual reports from organisations (including governments and NGOs), minutes from community meetings, work cited in funding applications from community groups or company websites.

In addition, letters of support, surveys, feedback from events, and testimonials from community organisations can all be used to demonstrate impact.

Social media activity can be measured, including the number of hits on social media sites, comments on articles or webpages and interaction statistics.

Documentation such as being mentioned in Hansard, recordings from public facing events and positions on steering groups are also examples of evidence that can be gathered and used.

There is further information on the question of how to gather impact in Digital Research Reports (March 2016) “The Societal and Economic Impacts of Academic Research” and (2016) 'Collecting Research Impact Evidence – Best Practice Guidance for the Research Community.’

Another useful resource is on the Sheffield University’s Research Services Impact pages - “Evidencing Impact, The What, The When, The How.”

DEVELOPING RESEARCH PROJECTS TO ENSURE THEY HAVE IMPACT

Research generally has more chance of having societal impact if effort is expended on ensuring this is an outcome.  Putting in some effort at the outset of a research project will affect the ability of the work to have societal impact.

Enabling Impact - Institutional level

According to the Australian Research Council, from an organisational perspective, a good approach to impact involves providing support for:

  • Multidisciplinary research centres
  • Co-location of research facilities
  • Knowledge transfer experts
  • Formal partnerships
  • Strong institutional, administrative and legal support
  • Embedded/co-located staff and HDR students
  • Multi-media platforms
  • Competitive grants

Enabling Impact - Research group level

The types of activities research groups can do to assist the planning of impact include:

  • identifying and actively engaging relevant users of research and stakeholders at appropriate stages.
  • articulating a clear understanding of the context and needs of users and consider ways for the proposed research to meet these needs or impact upon understandings of these needs.
  • considering the planning and management of associated activities including timing, personnel, skills, budget, deliverables and feasibility.
  • collecting and storing evidence of any existing engagement with partners or consultees.

There is some excellent advice on developing a Pathway to Impact statement on the UK Economic and Social Research Council website

Resources available

The University is running regular workshops on impact. If there is no workshop convenient for you, please request a training/workshop session by emailing research_impact@griffith.edu.au

Your relevant Grants officer in the Office for Research can assist with the preparation of the impact section of your research grant application.

For suggested media stories or to arrange media training contact the Office of Marketing and Communications.

Other resources

The impact discussion has been very active in the UK and there are several detailed and helpful webpages available about impact. The UK Economic and Social Research Council webpages include some guidance on developing your Pathway to Impact.

Sheffield University’s Research Services ‘Impact’ page includes tools and guidance for impact.

Let's talk about Impact

Please email us with your questions!