The information below will help you work out how to evidence your impact. For more information on the related concept of impact tracking – i.e. identifying where your research is being picked up and used – see our Monitor page.
Why evidence impact?
There are many reasons to gather evidence of research impact. You might need to report back to your funder on your project’s progress, including progress towards your impact goals; or perhaps you want to write an Impact Case Study to articulate and evidence the significance and reach of impacts arising from your research; or maybe you’re going for promotion and have noticed that you need to provide, 'evidence of substantial impact of research beyond academia’.
Considering impact early in the project will ensure that you have plenty of time to collect the right evidence.
What to evidence
Ultimately, to tell a convincing impact story, you need to collect evidence of three things:
Reach – how widespread the impact is. In other words, how many beneficiaries there are. Are the impacts at a local, regional, national or international level?
Significance – how important or valuable the impact is for each beneficiary.
Attribution – showing how your research actually contributed to the impact.
This might include records of meetings with policymakers, links to media appearances, attendance figures at events inspired by your research, testimonials from beneficiaries, data on the uptake of your tool or device, and so on.
How much evidence should you gather? Enough to convince people – your funder, case study reader, promotions panel – that your research had the impact you claim.
Our Nine Part Series, 'Reflections of Research Impact', is intended to give you a quick, easy to digest introduction to research impact. Episode 6. below offers some guidance on identifying and obtaining evidence and will cover: what that means, what to collect, how to go about it and when to do it.
Examples of impacts and evidence
To get a sense of how different types of impact can be evidenced, take a look at this useful document from the UK REF (with examples of impacts and indicators)
In 2017, Campus Engage published a sectoral report on Engaged Research for Societal Impact. This includes a Societal Impact Framework with impact categories and performance indicators, based on a synthesis of existing categories and indicators used across Ireland and Europe. You can also explore some examples of impact evidence and metrics offered by Campus Engage.
As long as you record your evidence of impact, it doesn’t really matter where. You might use software like Evernote, create a spreadsheet or keep notes in the back of a notebook. Watch this video from Fast Track Impact to see how easy it is to use Evernote to track your research impacts on the go.
At University of Galway, we offer various workshops and seminars on capturing research impact:
- Prof Mark Reed, CEO, Fast Track Impact, delivered a recorded workshop for University of Galway, on 'Using Evidence to Influence Policy', which you can find here. Drawing on his own research and extensive experience working with UK and overseas Governments and the United Nations, Prof Reed takes a unique relational approach to working with policy-makers that can be adapted to any Government or organization.
- Our Research Impact Seminar Series is an opportunity to hear from national and international research impact experts who will share and discuss best practices around the world on impact related topics.
To find out about other workshops and seminars, please visit our SharePoint site.