Ways to assess research impact

What is research impact?

A broad definition would describe research impact as the effects and outcomes in terms of value and benefit, associated with the use of knowledge produced through research. Measuring research impact is challenging because the value that accrues from research may only manifest itself slowly over years and as such it is difficult to track and monitor. There is a need to find a balance between impact-orientated research and research that does not have immediate or direct impact.

How to increase the impact of the research?

Impact arises from visibility so it is necessary to use every method possible to tell the world that the research exists. It is also important for the researcher to think about who can benefit from this research and then make sure that those people know about it. The list below is not definitive but suggests some ways the researcher can increase impact.

Contribution to Knowledge

This can be used by individuals, organisations and at a system level (such as government or public policy). This knowledge can be used directly as for example in decision making related to policy and practice. Indirectly, it can contribute to the formulation of values, the creation of new understandings and possibilities and the quality of public and professional discourse and debate.

Impact Summary

Draft an impact summary (the ways the research might have an impact) early on in the research so it can inform the design. If interested in public engagement, regard it as a two way communication process not just an outreach one. In short, identify the target audience and assess impact at all stages of the research project because measuring the ultimate impact can be very difficult to do.

Research Led Teaching

Communicating your research to students in order to enhance their understanding and learning is one way of achieving impact. This will also include the number of students who trained on the project and the number of doctorates that arise from the research.

Public Engagement

Engaging the public with your research can improve the quality of the research and its impact, raise the profile of the researcher and enhance professional skills.


This will include all outputs from the research but generally will mean publications and will include the number of citations the publications attract. Help by using a descriptive title which describes the research. Remember most material is found online using keyword searching so the choice of keywords is crucial.

After that the abstract will be the next thing to be looked at so it needs to describe the research, the methodology and the findings. Bibliometrics and Altmetrics can give you an overview of the impact the research is making on the scholarly community and general public. Outputs will also include patents; teaching resources; open educational resources; training packages; guidelines (for example clinical or best practice) and commercialization. Examine official documents to see if they cite the research and survey decision makers to discover if they are influenced by the research. Monitor any cost savings or increase service effectiveness that might arise, the number of information requests from decision makers and the number of web hits by individuals with domain names suggesting a decision-maker organisation.

Open Access

Use the institutional repository to make an open access version of your publications available. This ensures that your research is contacting the world on the internet and will be taken up because it is free to access. There are many categories of potential readers whose institutions cannot afford the ever-increasing costs of journal subscriptions; students; researchers in government departments; health sector; charities; people in developing countries and the general, better informed public. In this context, remember that traditional journal publishing can be very slow and technology now enables swifter and more widespread dissemination of research results. There are two advantages of Open Access publishing: the expansion factor where the material reaches a public it would not otherwise have reached and the early advantage; the earlier an article reaches the audience, the sooner it can start accruing citations. Remember this can be used for book chapters.

Social Media

Place a record of your output on an academic social networking site such as ResearchGate. However, do not upload a full text version of the article without explicit permission from the library. If you are uncertain about this, contact your library. Using other forms of social media such as blogging and tweeting can help to spread the word about the research.

Become an Expert

Increase the chances of reaching out to industry by registering on a database such as Knowledge Transfer Ireland.


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