Enhance research impact

…impact (beyond academia) will be assessed in terms of its reach and significance. Technology tools can assist you ….

In the Research Excellence Framework of 2014, undertaken by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), impact (beyond academia) will be assessed in terms of its reach and significance. Technology tools can assist you in extending the reach of your research and sometimes the significance of your research.

For instance:

  • blogs may be more attractive to non-academic readers than open access research publications
  • social media can allow you to disseminate your research to large audiences with minimal effort
  • social media can also open up debate and conversations with groups and individuals you may struggle to network with
  • interactive websites can also help you to record evidence of impact, which would help you to demonstrate the significance of your impact
  • the use of video and audio recordings can help make content more accessible to wider audiences

This bi-modal way of assessing impact is useful in understanding the difference between impact and dissemination. If you reach lots of people but they do not experience any benefit (it hasn’t changed them or the system they operate in) then this is dissemination. Impact is effecting change that results in benefit. If you can capture the evidence of a change or benefit (enhanced cultural, societal or economic benefits) then you are demonstrating your impact.

The following approaches may help in preparing content and deciding on which platforms to share your work:

  •  think about who the audience for your research is who could benefit or do things that bring about benefit
  •  write for that audience in a blog/social media etc.  i.e. don’t just write journal articles for other researchers
  • think about using appropriate key words when writing web content so your audience can find your content
  • use video to extend reach
  • promote using social media

For more information visit our social media page

Here are some examples of how technology tools could extend the ‘reach’ of your research:

Establish a blog

How – There are a number of blog tools available freely to use WordPress is a popular one with staff at the University of Leeds.

Why – Blogs allow you to write short, topical and accessible posts on subjects of relevance to your research. You can write a blog post that pulls out key messages from a publication or uses your underpinning research ideas to provide some commentary on wider debates.

Consider – Publicising your blog posts via other social media channels e.g. Twitter. Solo authored blogs can be time-consuming, could you work with other colleagues to develop a themed blog that all your research interests could contribute to? Multi-author blogs spread the writing burden and are also more likely to attract a wider and larger audience. Blogs also allow interaction, which could help you to move this tool into helping you to understand the significance of your impact.

Develop other social media channels

How  You should first do some research to decide which social media channels would be most useful in attracting the attention of the specific audiences you want to interact with. You can then use these channels in a layered way to provide people with the level of detail they want / need e.g. a tweet may be for some people, greater detail (in a blog post) may be useful to others, while some people may want to read a fuller publication (book / journal article).  See our Social Media page for more information

Why – An interconnected approach to social media channels will help to reach different audiences. The messages and the way they are presented may be different for each audience too.

Consider – The way the different tools you use provide interaction with your audience and tracking of them. The tracking (number of visitors, where from, etc) provides you with ‘reach’ data, while the interaction mechanisms can begin to provide ‘significance’ data.

Extending the reach of your impact activities e.g. workshops

How – Record or simulcast any face to face workshops with external stakeholders / audiences using the lecture capture tools and / or desktop conferencing and interactive session tools

Why – Face to face events are costly for large numbers if you are providing refreshments, lunch, etc even the venue itself can be costly. They are also a one-off event. Recordings can be made available after the event and interaction can be built into the host platform e.g. website to get the response of new viewers. Simultaneous broadcast via Adobe Connect can enable participation from anywhere. Connect also provides recording functionality.

Consider

  • Any impact recording or broadcasting an event may have on the nature of the discussion. For instance, it may make it more guarded. You must also ensure people are comfortable in this environment e.g. any visual recording or comments being attributable to individuals rather than the attendee group as a whole.

Responding to current events (e.g. news stories) using a recording

How – Use the personal capture tools at your desk to produce a short commentary on a current ‘hot’ news topic. The commentary could be based on the research that underpins your expertise in the area but remember to link what you are saying to those involved in the story e.g. what the Environment Agency could do to build more resiliency to flooding situations.  Make your content available on the University’s YouTube or iTunesU channel or via your blog.

Why – The recording would provide a succinct and early ‘impact case study’ for future Research Excellence Frameworks because you are describing the underpinning research and what that research could be used for. If you also delivered the recording via mechanisms that allow feedback / engagement with the people who view it you may also be able to gather evidence of impact.

Consider – How you will publicise and distribute the recording. You will also want to consider whether you only talk about your research or other studies that support your points. The latter is probably more credible from an audience’s perspective but that would also dilute this being a mechanism of generating impact case study evidence.

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