“A soup of different inspirations”: Co-produced research and recognising impact as a process, not an outcome
Co-produced research involves external partners from start to finish, builds lasting relationships and is actively involved in generating impact. Yet co-production sits uncomfortably with how impact is currently understood. Rachel Pain and Ruth Raynor explore how the process of co-production has the potential to make research and its outcomes richer as collaborators pool diverse ideas, expertise and skills. Impact becomes the driving (and uniting) force behind research, rather than a separate after-product.
What impact evidence was used in REF 2014? Disciplinary differences in how researchers demonstrate and assess impact
A new report produced by the Digital Science team explores the types of evidence used to demonstrate impact in REF2014 and pulls together guidance from leading professionals on good practice. Here Tamar Loach and Martin Szomszor present a broad look at the the types of evidence in use in the REF impact case studies and reflect on the association between use of evidence in the various categories and the scores received by submissions in peer review.
Selling impact: How is impact peer reviewed and what does this mean for the future of impact in universities?
Despite a wealth of guidance from HEFCE, impact evaluation in the run-up to REF2014 was a relatively new experience for universities. How it was undertaken remains largely opaque. Richard Watermeyer and Adam Hedgecoe share their findings from a small but intensive ethnographic study of impact peer-review undertaken in one institution. Observations palpably confirmed a sense of a voyage into the unknown. Due to the confusion and uncertainty, there was a tendency to prioritise hard (or more immediately certain) impacts over those deemed more soft (or nebulous).
Modelling Engagement: Using theatre-based workshops to explore citizenship and research participation
Recent research highlights the significant contribution that migrant mothers make to UK society. Dr Umut Erel from the Open University looks at how theatre was used as a strategy to co-produce this research. The workshops and resulting research findings demonstrate the value of two-way exchange between participants and researchers. The evidence suggests it is time to reframe the debate about migrant mothers away from questions of integration to engagement with citizenship.
Clare Wilkinson and Emma Weitkamp from the University of the West of England, Bristol offer support for researchers looking to track and evidence the unique, creative and often qualitative outcomes of public engagement and communication activities. Rather than an add-on to the research, it may be possible to embed evaluation within the research project itself.
The uneven impacts of research impact: Adjustments needed to address the imbalance of the current impact framework
The current approach to measuring and assessing research impact favours certain kinds of academics and research topics over others. Kat Smith and Ellen Stewart outline three areas that require further consideration. Academics who are negatively impacted by the current framework might look to suggest adjustments which limit or ameliorate these effects.
Delivering research impact that is aligned to social priorities requires public participation throughout the process
The notion that increased public participation is a key component of research impact has developed and gained traction. Indeed, recent analysis has shown that public and user participation does play a key role in delivering impact. However, how does this participation work in practice? Steven Hill, Elizabeth Morrow and Fiona Ross note that the majority of public engagement focuses on the dissemination of findings. Consultation and collaboration remain uncommon, with public participation rarely extending to the framing and development of research questions. Such narrow use of participation risks missing opportunities to align impact more closely with social priorities.
What are the organisational contexts in which ‘impactful’ research is produced? Following an empirical analysis of a selection of REF2014 impact case studies, Neil Kellard and Martyna Śliwa discuss the links between impact scores and a variety of important contextual factors. In what might be seen as a challenge to the established hierarchy of HEIs, high scores for research publication quality did not necessarily correspond with high scores for impact case studies. However, the under-representation of both early-career and women researchers is a concern future evaluation exercises should seek to address.
Views that academics can avoid the problems of work and aren’t experienced in the ‘real world’ are wrong, writes Jane Tinkler. Precarious employment, balancing teaching, research and publishing demands and demonstrating impact are very real pressures. Indeed, it is through lasting, trusting partnerships with business that researchers can truly have influence beyond academia.
Last week, Julie Bayley spoke at the 2016 Research Impact Summit, hosted by Knowledge Translation Australia. During her presentation she discussed many of the challenges faced when introducing an impact agenda to the academic community, and how the concept of impact literacy can help. An extended version of the presentation has been made available online, but Julie outlines the key points below.