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Research Impact

Overview

What is research impact?

Research impact, as defined by Australia's two key government funding bodies, is:

"The contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research." Australian Research Council

"The veritable outcomes that research makes to knowledge, health, the economy and/or society, and not the prospective or anticipated effects of the research". NHMRC

It can be simply described as "the 'good' that researchers do in the world" (Prof. Mark Reed, Fast Track Impact).


Why is assessing impact important?

Being able to demonstrate the impacts of research outside academia is becoming a fundamental requirement for researchers for several reasons:

  • Researchers are increasingly expected to engage with end-users and communicate their research to non-academic audiences.
  • Funding is becoming more and more competitive; funders want to know they are getting maximum benefits for their investment.
  • At Western Sydney University, translating research into meaningful outcomes is integral to our Strategic Plan, which states we will "deliver positive impact for, and with, our communities and partners through social, economic, cultural and place-based transformations". 
  • Demonstrating the impact of your research can raise your profile and lead to increased funding and collaborative opportunities.

Having a clear focus on impact from the beginning of a research project helps bring clarity to the project's objectives and provides a way to ensure that the research has a positive influence.

However, impact is complex and is not always easily quantified.  Impact can be immediate or long term and is often the result of accumulated knowledge and not a specific research finding.  While the impact of some research is apparent straight away, in other cases, it can take years or even decades for impact to become evident. 


How do I plan for impact?

The pathway to achieving impact might not be as straightforward as publishing a paper or speaking at a conference. Still, it can be much more rewarding and satisfying to see your research make a difference in people's lives. 

There are four key aspects to consider when developing and implementing an impact strategy. This is covered in the four sections of this guide: Plan, Engage, Measure, Communicate. 


Glossary 

Impact Benefit created as a result of the research, beyond the contribution to academia.
Research Engagement Interaction between research and research end-users outside of academia for the mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge, technologies, methods or resources.
Knowledge Exchange Activities that involve researchers and non-academic partners, users or stakeholders sharing the knowledge produced by research. 
End-user An individual, community or organisation external to academia that will directly use or directly benefit from the output, outcome or result of the research; e.g., governments, businesses, NGOs, communities, community organisations.
Stakeholder Anybody (an individual, community or organisation) who has a stake in the outcome of your research, perhaps because it will benefit them or because they are involved in using or translating the research into a real-world outcome. 

 

The terms 'metrics' and 'impact' are often used together and sometimes interchangeably.  While there can be some crossover - for example, in a grant application you might use both scholarly metrics and impact data to explain the significance of your research work - it is important to understand the distinction between the two concepts. 

Impact relates to the benefits/changes in society that result from research; while scholarly metrics relate to research outputs that communicate the findings of research. 

This guide provides information on understanding and demonstrating research Impact: 

  • how to plan for, accumulate, track and collate information that indicates how your research has made a difference in the world, and to whom, and why it matters. 

Please see the Metrics guide for more information on:

  • Bibliometrics or citation metrics - measurement tools used across the publishing industry to measure the performance of a publication, a publication source, or a researcher.
  • Alternative metrics or Altmetrics - used to demonstrate how your research outputs are being engaged with in the public sphere. 

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