Research impact is a relatively new concept introduced by the UK Research Council in 2009. In fewer than 10 years, it has rapidly gained momentum such that it has now become an integral part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 accounting for 25% of the total score (increased by 5% from the REF 2014). For research grant proposals in the UK and in many other countries, applicants need to clearly demonstrate their ‘impact plan’ (i.e. who is going to benefit and how?) and present ‘pathways to impact’ activities (i.e. what are you doing to increase the chance of your research making a difference?). Prof. Mark Reed on his website (www.fasttractimpact.com) suggests that reviewers of grant applications are now looking for costing of around 5% to 10% of the total budget in ‘pathways to impact’ activities.
During a one-day impact workshop on August this year Prof. Reed said that he thinks one word that best represents ‘research impact’ is ‘benefit’. Researchers use ‘public money’ which could otherwise be used in other important areas, so it shouldn’t be surprising if funders or the public ask ‘what benefit (or effect or change) is likely to come from your research?’ Thus, research should be relevant to the pressing need of the people and render benefit to the individuals or society, beyond academia.
Although impact of the research may not be predicted at the very outset and could be affected by external factors, it is now commonly agreed by the expert scientific community and research funders that well-planned impact activities with pre-determined impact goal increase the likelihood of achieving research impact. Research impact is relevant not only to established researchers but also to research students. Postgraduate research students could develop impact plans and pathways to impact activities which are feasible in a given time and available resources. Pathways to impact activities may include writing a research blog, newspaper articles, building a network with key people or organisations via social media (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn). It will help them to ‘stand out’ from the crowd and to become more competitive when looking for jobs.
Planning for research impact and thinking about ways in which to enhance the impact will help give an answer to the question ‘why should care about your work?’
These references will help to understand research impact in depth:
Reed, M.S. (2018) The Research Impact Handbook, 2nd Edition, Fast Track Impact.
Dr. Nirmal Aryal
Postdoctoral Researcher (Impact)
Faculty of Health and Social Sciences