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Research Impact

Community, Economic, and Social Impact of Research

Researchers' contributions go beyond the academy and include impacts on the economy, industry and business, public policy, culture, behaviour, and society. 

This type of impact can include:

  • Instrumental impacts that influence the development of policy, practice or service provision, shape legislation, or alter behaviour.
  • Conceptual impacts that contribute to the understanding of policy issues or the reframing of debates.
  • Capacity-building impact that occurs through technical and personal skill development.

Factors that Support Impact

Some of the factors that help generate impact include:

  • Establishing networks and relationships with research users.
  • Acknowledging the expertise and active roles played by research users in making impact happen.
  • Involving users at all stages of the research process.
  • Flexible knowledge exchange strategies.
  • Developing good understanding of policy/practice contexts and encouraging users to bring knowledge of context to research.
  • Consistently working towards research infrastructure, leadership, and management support.
  • Involving knowledge brokers as translators, amplifiers, and network providers.
  • Supporting space and time for collaborative reflection on research design and process, findings, and overall progress.

Measuring Community Impact

First, the bad news: for a variety of reasons, including the difficulty of attributing societal changes or benefits to a particular research output and time lag between the production of research and its impact, it is not clear how to evaluate the societal impacts of research.

Despite this, some approaches being used are:

  • Impact narratives or case studies, which include any social, economic, or cultural impact or benefit beyond academia
  • Financial return, for example selling or licensing research outputs
  • Expert review
  • Payback model
  • Stakeholder surveys
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Commercialization surveys
  • Citations or links to academic research in policy documents, white papers, patents, clinical practice guidelines, media, non-academic conferences, and websites
  • Direct involvement of academics in decision making by government or professional advisory committees, business corporations, interest groups, trade unions, charities, or other civil society organizations

Community Impact Tools