Posts By / Becca Edwards

Celebrating Impact Prize winners 2013: shaping our understanding of impact?

In my role, frequently I am asked about what is impact and how engagement work can lead to impact. There is, sadly, no easy answer to these questions – which proves especially challenging in the development of impact case studies for the REF or research proposals requiring an impact summary and a pathways to impact statement. To an extent, appropriate engagement and impact is highly dependent upon the nature of the research in question and the researcher(s) involved – but again that does not provide any easier answers on how to develop impact or demonstrate excellence. With the REF2014 submission looming in November, much discussion of impact seems to focus on the difficulties associated with writing impact case studies, understanding our approach to impact since 2008 and what will be our future impact strategy. Thus, much discussion of impact is tainted with negativity, not helped by wider discussion around the funding of research and what is most beneficial to society.

Amidst this gloom, it is perhaps all too easy to forget the outstanding work that goes on across the sector whereby colleagues are, day-in day-out making a positive difference to our society and economy. I am reminded of  this by recent announcement of the ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize winners for 2013 – you can read the full report here.    This has a personal connection for me – one of the winners of the Outstanding Impact in Public Policy prize, Professor Kevin Morgan – was a senior colleagues (and something of a mentor) in my first research post and an extremely inspirational one at that! At the time (pre RAE 2008 submission days), much focus was on high quality publications, and as a young researcher this is where I was advised to focus! Sound advice which I still relay today, but it is great to see a long track record of impact and engagement being rewarded by the ESRC.

Exactly what constitutes impact will continue to contested, debated and defined – but what is perhaps clear to see is how important it is to share and celebrate what we instinctively know is making a positive difference to the world around us to help guide the development of how impact is evaluated and assessed.




LOOK! An International Collaboration

default-logoFor the past few years, Jeff Bagust (BU Visiting Researcher and Emeritus Professor at AECC) and I have been involved in the Australian LOOK project. This is a multidisciplinary study that involves the collaboration of scientists (including cardiologists, physiologists, psychologists… and a whole load more “ists”) from all over the world. It is a longitudinal study following a group of approximately 850 school children as they grow into adults and throughout their lives. The aim of the study is to investigate whether the type of physical education you are exposed to in childhood has an effect on your quality of life… throughout your life! So, schools have been randomised into either continuing their normal physical education curriculum or following an externally provided, alternative programme. Just some of the areas that are being investigated include: bone health, insulin resistance, cardiovascular health, body image and academic performance.

The study started in 2005 when the children were 8 and so far two sets of follow-up tests have been performed. In 2013, the next phase of the project will begin as the children are now 15 and at secondary school.

For our part, Jeff and I have been investigating the development of perception of vertical in these children. While the intervention does not seem to have an effect on this, it has provided us with lots of information about how perception of vertical develops. The article we have written based on this work has just been published in the journal PLoSOne thanks to the BU Open Access Publication Fund. The new phase of the LOOK project will be very exciting for us as we have found that as the children are getting older, their perception of vertical is getting more and more like that seen in adults (interestingly, we have also found that as people move into old age their perception of vertical starts to resemble the amount of variation found in children!) so hopefully the new data will provide us with an additional piece in this puzzle.

For more information about the LOOK Lifestyle Study visit or drop me an email (


Sharon Docherty, Researcher, Anglo European College of Chiropractic