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The impact of "impact"

Posted on 10 July 2017

Does an emphasis on practical application devalue blue-sky thinking? Education PhD student, Jennifer Chubb examines attitudes.

A climate of “anti-intellectualism”, faltering levels of trust in “experts” and an era of “post-truth” provides a rather dreary depiction of the state of academia today.

Compound this with the reorganisation of higher education – where universities are run more like businesses – along with the politics of austerity, and it may be little surprise that the sector is said to be in crisis.

This is all coming at a time when there is an increased expectation for academics to be more accountable for their research by evidencing its economic and societal benefits – known as impact.

This expectation has received mixed responses from many people working in universities. At first, some academics crudely dismissed impact as a nasty government idea. Many researchers could not see how their work could align with it and, fearing a loss of freedom some claimed “science is dead”. This was even accompanied by the arrival of a hearse outside the offices of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in the UK – sending out the message loud and clear that the impact agenda was problematic and unwelcome. All of which reflected deep emotional and moral concerns within academia about the over management and politicisation of knowledge.

But on the flip side, impact has been welcomed by others for the opportunity it provides academics to make their work more visible and accessible.

Full article can be read on The Conversation, titled 'Academics fear the value of knowledge for its own sake is diminishing'.