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Research Engagement and Impact


Impact needs be considered at the beginning planning phase and throughout the research process in order to generate better research outcomes and contribute to greater impact.

Diagram showing pathways to research impact

Your pathway to impact links your research inputs and activities to your research outputs, outcomes and impact goals.

Planning your impact pathway is important. When considering your pathway to impact it is helpful to start at the end-point. What are your impact goals?

Clear impact goals at the beginning of the project will influence the quality, magnitude and ability to claim and evidence the impact of your research.

Develop SMART impact goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound). Professor Mark Reed from Fast Track Impact suggests the following tips[1]:

  • Visualise yourself at the end of your project having achieved an impact that everyone is talking about. Where are you and what can you see? What has changed? What are people saying about how they have benefited?
  • Make sure your impact goals aren’t simply about communicating your research findings
  • If they are, then ask yourself who is most likely to be interested in your work outside academia, and how those who hear about your work are likely to benefit from or use what they learn
  • If you don’t know the answer to these questions, just focus on trying to identify the aspects of your work that you think people outside academia are most likely to be interested in. Then ask yourself why you think they might be interested in this aspect of the work
  • If you’re still struggling, go out and speak to some of the people you think might be interested, and ask them what interests them most, what might make it more interesting/relevant to them, and how they would like to benefit from or use your work
  • If you have a goal that is all about communication rather than impact, then you might have a good idea of the sorts of modes of communication you want to use (e.g. social media, video, workshops), and an alternative is to work back from the communication method you’re interested in using, to the people who will engage with that method, and then their interests and how they will benefit. Beware that in some cases you may discover that the communication method you want to use will not actually reach people who are interested or can use your work (for this reason it is always best to start with the goal and/or your research partners/stakeholders first, before choosing your pathways to impact)

Using the Impact Planning Canvas contained within this toolkit provides you with a structured method for linking and plotting your pathway to impact by thinking about your project goals, stakeholders, and partners, methods of communication, timing, resources and indicators to measure your success.

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