The question of how research impacts on the larger world is now very much to the fore for those who invest in academic research. This may seem impossible to assess in the early stages of the research process but it should be considered from the start. Essentially assessing impact will be about exploring who might potentially benefit from the research and examining how the methods of dissemination of the findings can increase the number of potential beneficiaries of the research. A more formal definition will describe research impact as the demonstrable contribution that research makes to society and the economy. By engaging with dissemination the researcher can acquire feedback that may help to shape the strategy and methodology; maintain relevancy by ensuring that the research is meaningful and timely; assist in recruiting participants for surveys/focus groups and raise the profile of the researcher/research group.
Types of research impact
Academic impact is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to knowledge within and across disciplines including significant advances in understanding, method, theory and application.
Economic and Societal Impact is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to society and the economy and is of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations.
Whether academic or economic/society the impact of research can be instrumental, conceptual or capacity building. Instrumental is how the research influences the development of policy, practice or service provision, shapes the law or alters behaviour. Conceptual is how the research contributes to the understanding of policy issues and helps to reframe and provide insight on debates and issues. Capacity building is how the research assists individuals through technical and personal skill development.