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Research Engagement and Impact


Identifying the indicators of change that will help you to demonstrate the impact of your research is very important. Without evidence of impact your research impact claims cannot be substantiated. Another way to think of indicators of impact is to consider how success will be measured and what information you will need to capture. Consider the change or benefit that is anticipated or sought. What feedback would demonstrate that this happened? Can the activity incorporate the capture of such evidence?

Collecting baseline data is essential to ensure you have starting figures to compare with later when you are evidencing your impact. Link your indicators to clear targets and indicate whether these were met or exceeded.

What makes a good research impact indicator?


Collecting evidence of your research impact is critical. High quality research evidence underpins the impact. Evidence needs to independent, verifiable and robust. It can include such things as the following:

  • critical reviews in the media - retain date-stamped copies of the web pages in case the web links change
  • visitor or audience numbers and feedback
  • business performance measures (sales, turnover, profit)
  • documented evidence of changes to public policy/legislation/regulations/guidelines
  • Social media engagement statistics, Altmetrics[1], etc.
  • Written testimonials and verifiable user feedback
  • Evidence of sustainability – e.g. ongoing engagement with a group, significant increase in participation over time
  • Independent evaluations of impact
  • Published reports
  • Evidence of sustainability – e.g. ongoing engagement with a group, significant increase in participation over time

[1] Altmetrics provides data on how many times a single piece of research is mentioned on blogs, social media, social bookmarking, video services and other 'social web' platforms. 

This table provides a list of indicators and evidence linked to each impact type. This is not an exhaustive list, however it may serve to stimulate ideas as to the best indicators and evidence to demonstrate the impact of your particular research project.

Impact type, indicators and evidence

Type of Impact Indicators Impact Evidence of Impact
  • Change in research practices, policy and funding mechanisms
  • New theories and/or methodologies of research
  • Research has contributed to new ideas and thought leadership
  • Research influence on methods, ideas or ethics
  • # of citations
  • Publication rankings
  • Changes in public debate (social media mentions, retweets, sharing and comments)
  • Public discourse has been stimulated or informed by research
  • The awareness attitudes or understanding of (section of) the public have been informed, and their ability to make informed decisions on uses improved by engaging with the research
  • Community regeneration/development informed by research
  • Enhancements to heritage preservation, conservation and presentation
  • Production of cultural artefacts
  • Professions and organisations changing to meet changes to cultural values
  • Contributing to processes of communication, memorialisation and reconciliation
  • Evidence of research findings stimulating debate/dialogue (social media stats, media articles etc.)
  • Survey results (changes in awareness/understanding)
  • $ allocated to heritage preservation, conservation and presentation
  • Publics engagement with cultural artefacts
  • New or changed communication, memorialisation and reconciliation practices
  • Gains in productivity as a result of research-led changes in practice
  • Development of new or improved materials, products or processes
  • Improved effectiveness of workplace practices
  • Changes to management and use of resources
  • Understanding, developing and adopting alternative economic models (e.g. fair trade)
  • Policies have been introduced which have had an impact on economic growth and/or incentivising productivity
  • Changes in visitor numbers, audiences, events, etc.
  • Spinout or new businesses/companies
  • New business sector or activity has been created
  • Potential future losses have been mitigated by improved methods, risk assessment and management
  • % change in output
  • $ savings
  • % change in profits/turnover
  • % change in sales figures
  • % change in operating costs
  • new work practices (documented)
  • % savings in resources
  • Change in economic modelling
  • New policies (evidence of how research influenced these policy changes)
  • % change in visitor numbers
  • % change in visitor spend
  • Growth in business (ROI, GDP, profit margin, new markets)
  • Investment funding
  • Company reports
  • Licence agreements
Health and Wellbeing
  • New drug, treatment or therapy, diagnostic or medical technology has been developed, trialled with patients and/or adopted
  • New clinical or lifestyle intervention has been developed, trialled and/or adopted
  • Changes in patient care practices or changes to clinical or healthcare guidelines as a result of the research
  • Changes in cost effectiveness of health services, treatments or resource use
  • Care and educational practices have changed
  • Decisions by health service or regulatory authority have been informed by research
  • Enhanced public awareness of a health risk and/or disease prevention informed by research
  • Changes to public behaviour that improve health outcomes
  • % change in patient outcomes
  • % change in # patient admissions
  • Changes to length of stay
  • Documented changes to guidelines as result of the research
  • % change in the amount spent per patient
  • Changes in resources needed to complete treatment
  • % change in public behaviour (e.g. % change in number of smokers)
  • Change in number of people affected by preventable disease
  • Change in number of people taking health precautions (e.g. vaccinations)
  • % change in quality of life years (QOLY)
  • Change in population wellbeing score
  • Change in number of people accessing health services within a given time period
  • Patient surveys
  • Testimonials from clinical staff
  • Policy debate has been stimulated and/or informed by research evidence
  • Influence on debate in public policy and practice through membership of or distinctive contributions to expert panels and policy committees or advice to governments
  • Formal partnerships or research collaborations with major institutions and government
  • Consultancies to government or other bodies that utilise research expertise
  • Engagement with advocacy groups and other organisations as a result of research collaboration
  • Changes to professional standards and behaviour
  • Delivery of a public service has changed
  • Policy decisions or changes to legislation, regulations or guidelines have been informed by research activities
  • Evidence of research influencing policy debate in parliament, on social media and in the press (media articles, social media engagement statistics, etc.)
  • Research publication citied in policy-informing document
  • Formal memberships of committees and advisory boards
  • policy advice/briefings
  • MOU’s and partnership agreements
  • Feedback/testimonial from consultancies
  • Evidence of engagement and activity with advocacy groups
  • Documented professional standards/regulations
  • Evidence of public benefiting from service delivery change
  • Public meeting minutes
  • The environment has been improved through the introduction of new product(s), process(es), or service(s)
  • Enhanced strategy, operations or management practices produce environmental benefits
  • Changes in public awareness and/or behaviours relevant to the environment
  • New methods, models, monitoring or techniques have been developed that have led to changes or benefits
  • Policy debate on the environment, environmental policy decisions or planning decisions have been stimulated or informed by the research
  • Improved design or implementation of environmental policy or regulation
  • Management or conservation of natural resources, including energy, water and food, have been influenced or changed
  • Management of environmental risk has changed
  • The operation of business or public service have been changed to achieve environmental objectives
  • Direct intervention, based on research evidence, has led to reduction in carbon dioxide and other environmentally damaging emissions
  • Changed conservation policy/practice and/or resource management
  • Public debate and awareness of climate change impacts on the environment has been influenced by research
  • Evidence of uptake of new products, processes and/or services (annual reports, report cards, etc.)
  • % change in environmental impacts/benefits
  • % change in environmental awareness (survey, public opinion, social media debate, etc.)
  • Changes to environmental policy (evidence linking to research, policy briefings, advisory panels, etc.)
  • % Changes in energy, water and/or food consumption, wastage, cost, production
  • Changes in business and public service delivery models  linked to achievement of environmental objectives
  • % change in COemissions
  • % change in consumption
  • Documented change in resource management and conservation policy/practice
  • Improvements in legal frameworks, regulatory environments or governance
  • Changes to social policy have been informed by research
  • Enhanced corporate social responsibility practices and policy
  • Improved access to justice and other opportunities
  • Enhancements to policy and practice for securing poverty alleviation
  • Enhanced social understanding of issues, phenomena; shaping or informing public attitudes and values
  • Change in social inclusion and community participation
  • Creating, inspiring and supporting new forms of artistic, literary, linguistic, social, religious, and other expression
  • New frameworks, regulations or policy documents
  • Changes to policy have led to improved social welfare, equality and social inclusion (% change in welfare support, access to and awareness of support, % change in participation)
  • Documented CSR policy and practices
  • Changes in public attitudes (media, survey, social media)
  • Change in quality of life for community (increased services, improved infrastructure, ease of access, etc.)
Training / Education
  • Changes to education or the school curriculum have been informed by the research
  • Training guidelines have changed
  • Influencing the design and delivery of educational resources
  • Development of resources to enhance professional practice
  • Changes in learning and teaching approaches 
  • Evidence linking curriculum change to research
  • Published guidelines
  • % change in learning results
  • % change in school attendance
  • Documented changes in learning and teaching effectiveness
  • Statistics about those gaining new qualifications
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