What is research impact?

A blog by Maris Vainre, CLAHRC EoE Impact Officer

What is research impact? The answer depends on whom you ask – many organisations have their own definition of impact. As an example, see Research Councils UK’s (1) or Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (2) take on the matter. As CLAHRC East of England, we aim to improve services. We do so by funding applied health research that focuses on the needs of service users and by supporting the translation of the findings of this research into practice.
What do the different interpretations of impact have in common? – Demonstrability. It is not enough to publish a report that may have an impact should someone read it and use the evidence. It is paramount to show that your research findings enhanced something.
CLAHRC EoE has recently employed someone to ease this process – me. As an Impact Officer, I will build a network to facilitate conversations on how to use evidence to improve services. Additionally, I will support cross-region collaboration and help researchers to think how to form relationships with a variety of stakeholders. My focus will be on the field of children and young people’s mental health – as this is my area of research.
Achieving a real change is time-consuming and complex, not to say difficult. The task does not have to be that daunting, though. Reed (3) argues that there can be several types of impacts (see Figure 1) and that some types of impacts lead to others.

Figure 1 – What is research impact

Thus, before tackling instrumental impact, it may be worthwhile to invest in building relationships and capacity. These are likely create a better understanding of the issues your research addresses ensuring a more fertile ground in which to change policy or practice. Rome was not built in a day.

A look around in our KPI tool shows that CLAHRC EoE researchers report a range of impact types. An overview on the kinds of impact our research has had in the area of child and adolescent mental health is underway – watch this space. In the meantime, keep up the good work, foster relationships, implement evidence, and log your efforts in the KPI management system – this is a great way for us to know what you have achieved and it helps us to spread the word to stakeholders. In addition, should you want to brainstorm on how to do more to achieve impact in the area of your work – contact me.

1. Research Councils UK. Pathways to Impact [Internet]. Available from: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/innovation/impacts/
2. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). REF impact [Internet]. Available from: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/rsrch/refimpact/
3. Reed MS. The research impact handbook. Fast Track Impact; 2016.




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