Beyond REF2014

Attending a recent course on ‘Researcher development, the environment and future impact’, there seems to be a recurring theme across all sessions – the importance of adopting a long term view into research.

You reap the seeds you sow. This rings true in many aspects of life. It certainly is the common mantra sung by many of the speakers on the course. ‘Investment in the future’, ‘future impact’, ‘vitality and sustainability’ are just some of the buzz words thrown into the mix in that context.

And all that, has a direct and indirect link to the ‘impact’ element in the context of the Research Excellence Framework. Naturally, if you’re at the stage of planning your research and thinking about the impact, you’re too late for REF2014.

Yes, the speakers were referring to REF2020,  even though there isn’t an official REF2020 yet.

Isn’t it a bit too early to start thinking about that, I heard you say. When should you start thinking about ‘impact’? Colleagues from other HEIs talked about ‘impact’ at the PhD stages; others even mentioned ‘impact’ during undergrad. So, is there a ‘right’ time to start thinking about impact? Yes. The answer is, as early as possible.

How far wide will your research reach?

How many people will benefit from it?

What significance will it have on the society at large?

How many lives will it change?

Your research is like the stone that creates ripple in the water – how many ripples will it create? How long will the ripples last for? Will it create a beautiful wave? How many people will see those ripples and appreciate their beauty? It’s all to do with the way you cast that stone. You aim, you calculate and you plan.

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With proper planning of your research career path comes the evaluation and identification of the relevant ‘impact’. Along the way, other elements like obtaining funding and support, peer review processes and publications will slot into place, piece by piece.