RKEO have hosted two funder visits in the past three weeks (Interreg and Medical Research Council). Both funders highlighted the ‘So what?’ principle in terms of research ideas, i.e. what is the consequence of your work; who can benefit from your work in the long-term and what can be done to increase the chances of the work reaching those beneficiaries. Even if your proposal doesn’t directly address economic or societal impact you should be able to explain the pathway that links your work to – using the example of MRC – improving human health.
In order to describe the impact of your work, keep asking yourself ‘so what?’ or even better, describe your research idea to a colleague (or to take a step further, a member of the public) and get them to ask ‘so what’ at each point when you think you’ve finished explaining. RKEO had another funder visit today, the British Academy, and they used the phrase ‘Try not to be Gollum’, i.e. don’t be precious about your research and invite comments from others, share it and make it interesting.
Being able to fully explain the impact of your research will obviously increase your chances of being successful when applying for external research funds.
There are a vast number of resources available on strengthening your research proposals and developing impact. Most funders will have guidance on impact, for example, section 2.2.5 of the MRC funder guide provides tips on articulating potential impact. They may also have impact reports; links to all of the research councils impact reports can be found in the BU research blog’s Research Funder Guide. BU has an online toolkit to help support the development of your research impact. The toolkit explores what impact is, how you can go about creating an impact strategy, and looks at some commonly used pathways to impact, as well as examples of outstanding impact case studies.
For more information about impact, please contact the RKEO Knowledge Exchange and Impact Team or if you’re putting an application together and want advice on the impact sections, please contact the RKEO Funding Development Team.