This week, is hosting a live Google+ Hangout on Research Impact & Public Engagement for Career Success. Panel members taking your questions will be Ann Grand (Open University and UWE Bristol), Steven Hill (HEFCE), Stacy Konkiel ( and Charlotte Mathieson (University of Warwick). Managing Editor of the Impact Blog, Sierra Williams, will be moderating. To kick-off the event and encourage wider discussion on the topics to be covered, here are some extracts from the panel. Have a question? Tweet us @LSEImpactblog and include the hashtag #jobsQ.

A recording of the Hangout can be found at the bottom of the post

Research Impact and Public Engagement for Career Success – Live Google+ Hangout Wednesday 22 July #JobsQ

anngrand2-140x150Ann Grand has conducted extensive research on researchers’ own understanding of public engagement. While researchers are engaged in a broad range of public-oriented activities, her 2015 survey found that researchers have a relatively narrow view of what public engagement with research means. Steps can be taken by universities to broaden and deepen researchers’ approach to public engagement.

We have used the findings from this study, in combination with other data, to map researcher practices across the OU, investigating the processes of innovation that have led to the introduction of public engagement with research. We have collated existing resources and documented current practices to support researchers in several academic domains. This helped us to identify areas where additional interventions that have an impact on institutional systems and processes could be considered; we describe some in our Conclusions.

journal.pone.table1 researchers definitions PESource: Grand, et al. (2015) Mapping Public Engagement with Research in a UK University. PLOS ONE.

In our discussion of researchers’ definitions of public engagement with research, we noted some of the confusion between dissemination, dialogue and collaboration…Our solution was to collaboratively produce, with researchers and Senior Executives, a definition of engaged research that could shape and inform future strategy and practice, based on evidence of the various ways that researchers and research teams from across a wide range of academic disciplines are already interacting with various kinds of ‘public’:

Engaged research encompasses the different ways that researchers meaningfully interact with various stakeholders over any or all stages of a research process, from issue formulation, the production or co-creation of new knowledge, to knowledge evaluation and dissemination.

This definition was discussed, revised and approved by the Open University’s Research Committee in July 2014 and subsequently approved by Senate in November 2014). It is an intervention designed to catalyse change. It has been developed in discussion with academics from across the institution, with the intention that it can be applied across all academic domains. It extends respondents’ characterisation of public engagement as predominantly a communication activity and something that is presented after the research has been completed.

journal.pone.researchers reasons for PESource: Grand, et al. (2015) Mapping Public Engagement with Research in a UK University. PLOS ONE.

Co-creating this definition with academics, whilst also being informed by research, has enabled us to begin to clarify the rationales and opportunities for broadening and deepening future engagement and in particular to address the confusion about the different ways that the ‘impact agenda’ of innovation, enterprise, knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange connects with public engagement with research. We argue that this concept of engaged research is useful because it provides a basis for exploring the mechanisms by which a wide variety of economic and academic benefits, as well as social benefits, can be produced throughout the research process. It shifts the focus from assessing the benefits that flow from completed academic research to considering how the boundaries of academic research practice can become more permeable to participation and partnership working by people and agencies that have not traditionally been considered part of the research community. This participation can be linked to achieving various kinds of impact over time but can also usefully be considered as providing value in its own right, since the methodologies that are used to generate impact can be assessed whether or not impacts are ultimately achieved.

This is an extract of an open-access journal article, shared under CC-BY. For the full text of this article see Grand, et al. (2015) Mapping Public Engagement with Research in a UK University. PLOS ONE.

Ann Grand is a Visiting Fellow at the Open University Institute of Educational Technology and a Research Fellow in the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

Steven-HillSteven Hill shares his thoughts here on research impact, the limits of quantitative metrics and REF2020. For REF2014, impact case studies but the power of numbers to inform and mislead is great in equal measure.

We are currently discussing the future REF informally across the sector, in advance of publishing a formal consultation in the autumn. The review is an important part of the evidence picture we have assembled, and now we need everyone to contribute to the debate, and offer their ideas for the future. And it is clear that some of the recommendations of the review concerning future REF will need further work, especially the suggestion that we should consider some standardisation of the way quantitative data are used in impact case studies…While we think about the future, is is easy to forget that the REF is already all about metrics of research performance. While there is only limited use of quantitative data as an input to the exercise, the outputs of the exercise, the quality profiles, are themselves metrics of research performance. The exercise could be characterised as the use of expert judgement to develop a quantitative assessment of performance.

Like any metrics, and as recommended by the recent Metric Tide review, we need to take great care in how we use and interpret the results of the REF. The Funding Bodies only publish the results as profiles, that capture the full nuance of the assessment. There are many ways to ‘collapse’ the profiles into a single number – the Grade Point Average, calculations of research power, and even approaches that take into account the proportion of eligible staff that were submitted. But all of these attempts to create a single number description of performance inevitably simplify. The same number can represent vastly different profiles, and so different performance…

All of this means that using the REF results to make simple ‘X is better than Y’ comparisons is not necessarily responsible (to use the language of the metrics review). And if you want to use the results to separate departments or institutions into groups based on performance great care is needed. It is essential to first determine the purpose of the analysis, and then consider how best to use the data from the profiles to address that purpose.

This is an edited extract of a piece which appeared on the LSE Impact Blog last week.

Steven Hill is Head of Research Policy at HEFCE.

stacyAn increasing number of scientists are using altmetrics to understand their research impact. Altmetrics are indicators of a particular research output’s influence from across the social web. Stacy Konkiel provides a brief overview of the value of altmetrics.

You’re not getting all the credit you should be for your research. As an early career researcher, you’re likely publishing open access journal articles, sharing your research data and software code on GitHub, posting slides and figures on Slideshare and Figshare, and “opening up” your research in many other ways.

Yet these Open Science products and their impacts (on other scholars, the public, policymakers, and other stakeholders) are rarely mentioned when applying for jobs, tenure and promotion, and grants. The traditional means of sharing your impact–citation counts–don’t meet the needs of today’s researchers. What you and the rest of Generation Open need is altmetrics.

Altmetrics 101

Altmetrics measure the attention your scholarly work receives online, from a variety of audiences. As a scientist, you create research data, analyses, research narratives, and scholarly conversations on a daily basis. Altmetrics–measures of use sourced from the social web– can account for the uses of all of these varied output types.

Nearly everything that can be measured online has the potential to be an altmetric indicator. Here are just a few examples of the types of information that can be tracked for research articles alone:


When you add research software, data, slides, posters, and other scholarly outputs to the equation, the list of metrics you can use to understand the reception to your work grows exponentially.

And altmetrics can also help you understand the interest in your work from those both inside and outside of the Ivory Tower. For example, what are members of the public saying about your climate change research? How has it affected the decisions and debates among policy makers? Has it led to the adoption of new technologies in the private sector?

The days when your research only mattered to other academics are gone. And with them also goes the idea that there’s only one type of impact.

This is an extract of a piece which first appeared on the ImpactStory blog titled The Right Metrics for Generation Open and is reposted with permission.

Stacy Konkiel is Research Metrics Consultant with @altmetric.

charlotteLooking to get involved in public engagement but not sure where to start? Charlotte Mathieson offers five suggestions for early career researchers when beginning to undertake public engagement activities.

For early career researchers, impact and public engagement are becoming increasingly important but many are often unsure of where to begin. Here are 5 suggestions for getting started:

  1. Think ahead, and focus on areas of your research that have the future potential to attract wider attention – anniversaries of historical figures, milestones, or publications are one example of this.
  2. Find out what’s out there: are there any blogs or websites at your University or in your field that you could contribute to as a guest blogger or article? Get to know the venues available and how you might use them.
  3. Raise your own profile: social media such as blogging and twitter can be an effective way to raise your profile beyond academia. Blogging is a good way to start communicating with different audiences, and Twitter is an invaluable means of building up a blog following and finding out about opportunities.
  4. Move out of your comfort zone; the prospect of recording or talking on the radio isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but challenging yourself is the only way to extend your skills. It takes practice to feel comfortable and confident, and sometimes training: look at what your university may be able to offer in the way of public engagement training and support.
  5. Use your initiative: if there’s nothing relevant to contribute to, why not start your own project? Take a look at other projects at your university/ in your field to get inspiration, or see if your university has dedicated funding for impact/public engagement project support.

A longer version of this piece was first posted on the Religious Studies Project.

Charlotte Mathieson blogs at and is on twitter @cemathieson

Still looking for more ideas? We’ve put together a reading list on Using Social Media for Research Collaboration and Public Engagement.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

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