In this article, Georgina Collins gives a brief overview of the buzzword in academia, impact, and what it means for academic researchers. She talks about how one can involve impact activities as part of ongoing professional development. 

“Impact” describes the contribution that research can make to society and the economy when research knowledge is communicated to the wider public. According to Research Councils UK (RCUK), “impact”:

  • Must be demonstrable
  • Must involve engagement with non-academic audiences
  • Must result in change (ie make a difference to the way audiences think or behave)
  • Must show economic impact beyond just financial or monetary impact
  • Can have benefits outside the UK

What are Impact Activities?

Impact activities are forums for the communication of research knowledge to individuals and groups beyond academia. These may include:

  • Blogs or web articles
  • Classroom materials for schools
  • Exhibitions
  • Magazine or newspaper articles
  • Non-academic books
  • Pamphlets or guides
  • Public lectures or debates
  • Radio or television interviews and programmes
  • School visits

Which non-academic audiences can be targeted?

Consider the way in which you could work alongside any of the following categories of people, or the way in which your research could benefit these groups:

  • Charities
  • Corporations and businesses
  • Government or policy makers
  • Individuals with interest in a particular subject
  • Leisure groups
  • Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • Not-for-profit organisations
  • Professional or practitioner groups such as lawyers or architects
  • The voluntary sector

Impact tips for ECRs

  • Create a new section in your CV for Impact Activities – include any public engagement events you have been involved in that have lead to Impact.
  • Consider Impact when applying for funding – organisations such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the British Academy (BA) ask applicants to address both academic and public impact. Other application forms may not explicitly ask for details of Impact but it is worth including some of your plans.
  • Look out for funding to organise Impact activities.
  • Warwick also has prizes for work undertaken by researchers that engages with the public and that is not otherwise rewarded within the university, such as the Arts Impact Award (linkto: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/rss/impact/arts_impact_award/).

 

Other benefits to ECRs

  • Non academic lectures and debates can provide you with new perspectives on your work.
  • Activities such as school visits or working with charities can be inspirational and good fun. They also underline how important your knowledge can be outside of a university.
  • You may find that newspapers and magazines, for example, will pay you for writing articles.
  • In general, impact activities are great for networking and contacts and may bring about new opportunities or new directions in research.

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