As Research Impact Officer for the University I discuss impact with all levels of staff and it is clear that basic understanding of the impact agenda needs addressing in many areas. This is not surprising really; depending on your research perspective you may be looking at a prospective view of potential impact or a retrospective view of achieved benefits, or be required to complete both a pathways to impact statement and an impact case study.
There is a plethora of information and guidance citing the impact agenda in sector media streams, providing advice on networking, multidisciplinarity, cross-collaboration, innovation and public engagement (or are we supposed to just say ‘engagement’ now). Not to mention open access, open data and generating more outputs in higher quality journals – but hang on isn’t that ‘within academia’ should we even be mentioning that in the same sentence as ‘impact’?
Impact is ‘making a difference’
Communicating the impact message across a large institution is not the easiest of undertakings and I am always looking for new ways to convey information. The most important thing from my perspective is generating a discussion platform; considering the difference research could achieve both within and beyond academia can give new perspective on the range of potential beneficiaries and allow consideration to the types of activities to reach out to them.
The one objective that staff in impact roles across the sector would agree on is that they want impact potential to be a fundamental consideration when thinking about a new research idea. This means changing the way research projects are thought about from the outset, it is not about changing the research objectives but paving the way for fundamental benefits to arise. I think most would agree that research excellence is one objective that everyone is striving for whether at institutional, faculty, departmental or personal level.
This graphic above is not the whole story of course, and debate has ensued over other activities and outcomes that should or should not be included, and then there is the question of what do I need to do now.
The requirement to report on the outcomes of research, whether you want to define it as part of the impact agenda or not, have been around for many years and impact assessment is not going away any time soon.
Dee Summers is Research Impact Officer for the University of Portsmouth and writes here in a personal capacity.
If you would like to contact Dee please email firstname.lastname@example.org.