By Joann Cattlin, Wade Kelly, Ken Knight, David Phipps.
The impact that research generates in society is a hot topic internationally. It can be a complex topic and poses different challenges depending on whether you are a researcher, research professional, funder, or research user.
Over the last year, the four authors of this article have settled into an informal community of practice, meeting roughly once a month to discuss research impact. While our roles and experience differ, we all work with researchers and professional staff keen to learn how to plan for and conduct research that will generate impact beyond academia.
When we meet, we often discuss useful resources that we have used or discovered. We thought that these conversations shouldn’t end with our Zoom call — hence this post! Research impact is such a complex and rapidly evolving area that many people struggle to find succinct, relevant, and practical resources to guide and inform their efforts.
A few years ago, you would have struggled to find even a handful of high quality impact resources but we’ve recently noticed a rapid proliferation of impact training, online tools, and journal articles. We’re now increasingly faced with the opposite problem: too many impact resources to navigate and evaluate. Since research impact definitions and activities vary between countries, institutions and disciplines, it can be challenging to identify which ones are most applicable given a specific context.
From the increasing bounty of international impact resources, we have curated some of the ones that we look to when developing impact literacy and practices. We have organised these into three broad categories that roughly equate to level of interest or knowledge: New To Impact, Growing your Impact Literacy, and Challenging your Impact Assumptions.
Within each section we’ve divided the resources into practical and theoretical tools, with links to readings, podcasts, and webinars. We hope you find it easy to navigate and that you’ll continue to share with your impact-ready colleagues. We invite you to share your own trusted impact resources in the comments section of this article or via the growing Research Impact community on Twitter.
New To Impact?
These resources provide a broad perspective on the many aspects of research impact from definitions, to planning and evaluation for those wanting to get a sense of the key issues and practices.
- This collection of introductory videos and documents define key concepts and practical advice for researchers, developed by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute for the Melbourne Children’s Impact Hub. While a health lens is applied, the resources have broad applicability across many sectors and disciplines.
- An introductory guide to impact planning [2.6 MB PDF], developed by Ghent University, defines key concepts and tools developed in a number of European countries and the UK.
- The Impact Literacy Workbook [730 KB PDF] is an accessible guide for international audiences to develop your organization’s approach to impact, by Dr Julie Bayley and Dr David Phipps.
- Templates and guidelines for developing impact plans and approaches to engagement with stakeholders, developed by Prof. Mark Reed, Fast Track Impact.
- The basics of writing an impact statement, by Wade Kelly, provides a straightforward strategy for developing a statement for a grant application.
- UTS (University Technology Sydney) group, The New Social Contract, curates interviews with researchers, research partners and university staff discussing impact in the context of the Australian higher education system. An excellent overview of their work is via their Conversation article providing commentary on research impact in Australia.
- This LSE (London School of Economics) Impact blog post explores the drivers behind the impact agenda. The LSE Impact of Social Science Blog is well worth subscribing to.
- An article on the concept of impact literacy within organisations by Dr Julie Bayley and Dr David Phipps
Growing your Impact Literacy?
For those wanting to implement research impact activities within their own work or with others, this section focuses on implementation activities and the research that underpins impact practices.
- Resources for planning engagement activities from the UK National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement.
- A tool for incorporating impact planning into your research project, the Research Impact Canvas by Fecher and Kobsda, 2019.
- The Ethical Community Engagement toolkit to support engagement with communities, by Dr Bridget Pratt (Centre for Health Equity, School of Population and Global Health).
- Research to Action: a global guide to research impact is aimed at researchers and practitioners in the field of International Development, with links to resources and information applicable to all disciplines.
- How to plan and collect evidence of impact developed by Vertigo Ventures in collaboration with the UK Higher Education Funding Council for England and Digital Science (p18-21.)
- A blog post and presentation [540 Mb download] describing how you build healthy, impact literate culture in your university, by Dr Julie Bayley, University of Lincoln, UK.
- A toolkit of resources for planning and undertaking knowledge mobilisation activities developed by the Knowledge Institute on Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions.
- A book providing a detailed analysis of the UK impact assessment and how it has influenced research culture, with discussion of other national approaches including Australia. The Impact Agenda: controversies, consequences and challenges, by Smith et al 2020.
- A systematic review of the literature on impact assessment, Research impact: a narrative review by Greenhalgh et al (2016)
Challenging your Impact assumptions?
Keep developing your impact literacy by challenging your impact assumptions.
- A tool to guide you in planning or evaluating research impact, the University of Leiden Impact Matrix
- A workbook [PDF, 2.3Mb] to support institutional culture change that supports research impact, the Institutional Healthcheck Workbook developed by Dr Julie Bayley and Dr David Phipps
- A paper that outlines stages in development of impact cultures within universities and practices that support this Research Impact as Ethos by Rickards et al (2020).
- Guidelines recommending a purposeful approach to impact assessment, the ISRIA statement: ten-point guidelines for an effective process of research impact assessment by Adam et al (2018).
- A criticism of the current UK REF impact assessment program, by Watermeyer and Derrick, 2022.
- An article that contextualises research impact assessment in the UK as part of a longer term shift in research governance and accountability.
- An article that puts forward a theoretical approach by considering research impact as a form of cultural capital and legitimacy of knowledge within different fields.
About the Authors
Joann Cattlin is a PhD student at RMIT University researching the organisational support needed to enable societal impact of research. She has over 20 years’ experience working in Australian universities as a research manager, researcher and librarian with a focus on enabling impactful research and supporting communities of practice.
Dr Wade Kelly is Director, Research Excellence and Impact at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Wade works at the nexus of engagement and impact, providing strategic advice to university leadership, faculties, and institutes to embed impact into university culture. He is a sought-after speaker and commentator on impact in higher education and recently released the book, The Impactful Academic: Building a Research Career That Makes a Difference
Ken Knight is Research Impact Manager at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, where he leads an award-winning program to build capacity, capability and an enabling culture for research impact and engagement. Ken is Chair of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes’ (AAMRI) Impact Working Group and Network, which co-developed the first Research Impact Framework for the Australian MRI sector.
David Phipps is the administrative lead for all research programs and their impacts at York University in Toronto, Canada. In addition to other awards, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work in knowledge mobilization. He sits on research impact committees around the world and is Network Director for Research Impact Canada.