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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.

To learn more about societal impacts of research, try the Introduction to Research Impact tutorial.

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

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Library Services to Support Community-Engaged Research

The landscape of higher education is evolving, with a growing emphasis on achieving societal impact alongside academic excellence. Community-engaged research and service is a highly impactful approach,  which is intentionally designed so the methods and research outcomes are developed and managed with communities. In support of this valuable approach to research, the University of Alberta Library (UAL) can provide services to foster and bolster community impact initiatives.

  • Meeting and Event Spaces: To facilitate meaningful interactions between researchers and community members, UAL can provide designated spaces for meetings, workshops, and events. These spaces can be conducive to open discussions, idea sharing, and collaborative planning, fostering a strong foundation for community engagement. Check out bookable spaces in the library, or contact your Subject Librarian to discuss larger options or events.

  • Interdisciplinary Collaborations: UAL can actively promote interdisciplinary collaboration among researchers from various disciplines, and provide targeted literature searches to identify potential collaborators. 

  • Training and Capacity Building: The Research Impact Team can consult with researchers, or provide instruction on, topics such as understanding research impact, planning for impact, and qualitative and quantitative approaches to research impact.

  • Open Access (OA) Publishing Support: Recognizing the significance of disseminating research outcomes and the broad, accessible reach of OA publishing, UAL can offer robust support for OA publishing, including providing researchers with resources, guidance, and infrastructure for disseminating research and knowledge mobilization products openly. Contact your Subject Librarian for more information.

  • Research Impact Canada (RIC) Membership and Events: The U of A's membership in Research Impact Canada can provide support for community and social impact for your research. Offering researchers access to RIC resources, workshops, and networking events can equip you with skills and knowledge needed to navigate the complex landscape of community engagement and impact.

The University of Alberta Library is committed to empowering researchers to make a positive difference in their communities.