The 5 tips to creating research impact

The emphasis on research impact continues to grow in Australia with research institutes and universities requesting this information as part of their reporting processes. For example, the Australian Association of Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) ask about research impacts and request information about this from the member organisations as part of their annual reporting cycle.

This request usually starts a flurry of events that require researchers to write reports on any impacts their research may have had in the not too distant past,  adding yet another layer of work for the busy researcher. Knowing and reporting on the impact of publicly funded research is of great importance, but the way in which we collect and consider this information is often an afterthought purely for reporting purposes. Of course we all want to have impacts from our research and this is quite often the intention, but perhaps we need to consider ways to create, measure and evaluate research impact in a more deliberate and meaningful way.

Research impacts differ from project to project and within the context of existing knowledge in the particular field. For example, some research may have the intention to change policy, whilst others may want to educate or change behaviour, and others may want to expand existing knowledge leading to some long term discoveries. Some impacts may happen quickly whilst others can take many years, making the measurement more complex. Add to this the identification, measurement, and evaluation of short term versus long term impacts and their sustainability.

How then can we be more deliberate about our research impacts? This is a long and complex issue, therefore my goal here is to highlight some simple strategies that can make research impact a more deliberate and intended process. Through knowledge translation planning you can create a pathway that leads to the identification and measurement of your intended research impacts.

Five things you can do to create a deliberate impact from your knowledge.

  1. Be a visionary – Begin with the end in mind
    • Impacts are measured at the level of the user. During the research planning process you need to consider the likely outcomes and beneficiaries of your new knowledge.
  2. Make some new friends – Build and maintain relationships or research partnerships with the likely beneficiaries of your research.
    • Despite the best of intentions and well made plans the realities of what happens in practice and other internal barriers may prevent the uptake or implementation of new knowledge. Buy in from stakeholders and relevance to both their needs and capabilities must be considered to ensure success in the long term.
  3. Plan, plan, plan – Determine your knowledge translation goals?
    • What do you intend to do with the knowledge you gain from your research? For example are you wanting to change policy, change behaviour, change practice, create new products or technologies, or simply advance scientific knowledge?
  4. Consider next steps – Build processes and systems to implement the research knowledge according to your goals.
    • Be innovative in your thinking and work with your new found friends to determine the best way of delivering the knowledge from your research. You may find a 400 page report is neither necessary let alone sufficient!
  5. Create feedback loops through evaluation of your knowledge implementation processes to determine if you are meeting your goals and thereby creating your intended short term impacts.

Knowledge translation models and frameworks help to guide the research translation process in a way that leads to impact from new knowledge. Planning for knowledge translation and the processes involved at each step of the research process are things we cover in our training programs to help you in your intended outcomes from research.

Do you have any thoughts or experiences about planning for and measuring your research impact?