Is being interviewed by a local (even national) newspaper (or invited from a prestigious university to do a seminar) good for impact? No, at least not unless it leads to something else, as Prof. Gauntlett clearly explained in an article published in 2014 but still useful for those involved in projects where demonstrating the impact outside of academia is still seen as difficult. A more recent article addressing similar issues is Andrew Gunn, Michael Mintrom. (2017) Evaluating the non-academic impact of academic research: design considerations. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 39:1, pages 20-30.
“Impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. This occurs in many ways – through creating and sharing new knowledge and innovation; inventing groundbreaking new products, companies and jobs; developing new and improving existing public services and policy; enhancing quality of life and health; and many more” tells us the UK Research and Innovation body.
Obviously, impact is not limited to economic or commercial aspects; it can also be societal, environmental, technical, educational, or scientific, as the EU reminds us in documents that should help Consortia in preparing dissemination, communication and exploitation plans to be included in their proposals.
However, my experience as expert evaluating proposals for the EU since 1993 confirms that often the information given on these important aspects looks like a localised copy and paste of the same text, year after year.
So, looking at real examples can be useful. If you do not work in the UK, maybe you are not familiar with the Research Excellence Framework (REF) the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. In 2014, the research of 154 UK Universities was assessed, in order to understand its impact outside of academia. The results, case studies following the same template, are still available through an impact case study database, a searchable tool that makes them widely available. I researched through the key word “gender” and it has been a valuable experience.
So, if you wish to write something different in your next application, to monitor and improve the impact your research will have in policy and practice, you may get inspiration from these excellent examples. And to make the task even easier, you may download the Impact toolkit written by Helen Tilley, Louis Ball, Caroline Cassidy in March 2018. You will be guided step by step.
I hope to see the results of all these efforts in the next evaluation round…