Research Impact workshop

Start Date
12 August 2014
End Date
13 August 2014
UNSW Australia
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A workshop looking at aspects of measuring research impact and their influence on universities.

Many governments and research sponsors have expectations that the research they fund will deliver economic, social or cultural impacts. In the past these expectations have been more implicit than explicit. But universities in many countries have staked their claims for increased funding on their pivotal role in delivering economic growth through research and its impact on innovation, and funders are now expecting the sector to demonstrate delivery. In the UK this has resulted in a component of the current research assessment exercise (REF2014) dedicated to the assessment of the impact made by past research. 20% of the final scoring will be based on this impact assessment component, and a recent report to government has proposed that in the next exercise the weighting for impact should increase to 25%. The UK has tended to lead other countries’ approaches to research assessment so there is a strong probability that many U21 members will find themselves subject to impact assessment in future.


The introduction of impact assessment has proved, unsurprisingly, to have been controversial. Debates have centred around a number of issues:


  1. The view that there should be no expectation that academic research should be required to have impact outside academia. This has been undermined by the representations that senior university managers have made to government when arguing their case for funding.
  2. The view that impact is difficult if not impossible to measure.  The UK conducted a pilot exercise before implementing impact assessment in REF2014 and satisfied itself that impact could be assessed through case studies. This will not be proven until the outcome of REF2014 is known.
  3. The view that universities rarely deliver impact directly outside of academia – this is the role of industry, third sector bodies, governments, policy makers and the creative sector. Hence we are being subject to measurement of something over which we have no control. In the UK academics have essentially lost this argument for the time being and the ground has shifted in the direction of asking how universities can have more influence on the impact generating process.
  4. The view that impact assessment will distort the balance between ‘blue skies’ and applied research too much in favour of the latter, to the long term detriment not only of academic endeavor but also of innovation itself – that the best innovation derives from the wildest research ideas whose potential for impact generation was impossible to foresee when the work was first proposed.


Outline Programme 

The workshop will be split into three sessions.

Session 1:Measuring Impact

It could be argued that measuring the ultimate impact of research is a great way to measure the performance of the whole research to innovation system, but not a good measure of university performance in isolation.

Universities rarely deliver impact directly outside of academia – this is the role of industry, third sector bodies, governments, policy makers and the creative sector. Never the less, we now have to assess impact:

Topic A: Approaches to measuring impact – are case studies enough? What other metrics could be applied? How difficult/challenging are such metrics to capture?

Topic B: Capturing impact – what systems and resources need to be put in place to ensure that institutions can evidence the impacts made by their research. What issues arise in identifying and evidencing impact in different disciplines?


Session 2: Engagement Metrics

This session will explore the concept of Engagement Metrics, as a means of measuring how effectively universities transfer knowledge to research users.

Topic A: What metrics could we use?

Topic B: What do we want to use the data for?


Session 3: Driving Engagement

An opportunity to share experience of what works best to deliver ‘reach’ and ‘significance’ (the dimensions of the UK’s impact assessment metric in REF2014). Example would cover the merits/drawbacks of:

  • Collaborative Research
  • Joint research institutes/ innovation centres
  • Licensing
  • Spinout companies
  • Knowledge Exchange networks
  • Policy fora
  • Easy Access IP as a mechanism to deliver more impact than paid-for licenses
How To Register

Registration is via the registration form at the bottom of this page.  

Accommodation has been reserved at the Intercontinental Hotel, Sydney at a rate of AUS$295 per night.

Delegates are required to make their own accommodation bookings via the hotel's website at

Any queries should be directed to Dr Gemma Marakas, Researcher Engagement Cluster Manager.

Dr Gemma Marakas