The impact of research
The impact of researcher development activity is just one aspect of the broader consideration of the impact of research and researchers. Activity in demonstrating impact has grown considerably since the Warry report of 2006 (Increasing the Economic impact of the Research Councils ) which recommend to the UK Research Councils that they should be able to demonstrate the impact of their investments in both research and researcher training. Current key activity in impact is summarised below.
RCUK - Excellence with impact
Further details and case studies of the impact of research are available from the Research Councils UK ‘Framework for the Future' website. The development of researchers is seen as an important aspect of the impact of RCUK funding.
‘[RCUK] focus is on excellence with impact:
- We nurture the highest quality research, as judged by international peer review providing the UK with a competitive advantage. Global research requires we sustain a diversity of funding approaches, fostering international collaborations, and providing access to the best facilities and infrastructure, and locating skilled researchers in stimulating environments.
- Our research achieves impact - the demonstrable contribution to society and the economy made by knowledge and skilled people. To deliver impact, researchers and funders need to engage and collaborate with the public, business, government and the third sector.'
[Research Councils UK Framework for the future]
RCUK - Pathways to Impact
‘Working together with our research communities and other partners, we want to encourage researchers to be actively involved in thinking about how they will achieve excellence with impact and to explore the pathways for realising the impact. The implementation of Academic Beneficiaries, Impact Summaries and Pathways to Impact (formerly known as Impact Plan) within the Research Council application and assessment process aims to aid this.'
Extract from the RCUK Pathways to impact website
The Pathways to impact website provides guidance and a range of resources and further information relating to research impact.
HEFCE - Research Excellence Framework
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a new system for assessing the quality of research in Higher Education Institutions. Currently planned to consider research outputs in the priod 2008-2012 inclusive. The REF will
- ‘inform the selective allocation of research funding to HEIs
- provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks
- provide accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate its benefits.'
Key features of REF include the assessment of:
- ‘The quality of research outputs
This will continue to be the primary factor in the assessment. The quality of research outputs will be assessed by the expert panels against international standards of excellence. We expect that some of the panels will make use of citation information to inform their review of outputs.
- The wider impact of research
We are currently running a pilot exercise to develop and test the method for assessing this.
- The vitality of the research environment'
HEFCE - Impact pilot exercise
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) are currently developing, ‘proposals for how to assess research impact' Submissions to the pilot exercise have included:
- ‘An impact statement for the submitting unit as a whole, describing the breadth of interactions with research users and an overview of positive impacts achieved. (This includes data about research income from key categories of research 'users'.)
- A number of case studies illustrating and providing evidence of specific examples of impact (each submission includes a total of one case study for every ten members of research staff).'
HEFCE impact activity has been informed by a review of international practice in capturing research impacts.