Routes to impact

Routes to impact

'Research impact' is the result of a process that can take many forms: the two-way flow of research-based knowledge between academia and other groups in society. This is sometimes called knowledge exchange or public engagement.

There is no single approach to this; each example of how research interacts with the world is different, and specific to the nature of the work itself.

Where to start

Where to start

Impact is about people. How research might change their lives - their knowledge, attitudes, behaviour or experiences. When planning for impact, rather than starting with ideas for events and activities, the best place to start is with potential collaborators and beneficiaries.

  • Who might be interested in this research and why?
  • How do these groups like to work?
  • What are their priorities?
  • How do they get their information?
  • What kind of language do they use?

You can then plan engagement activities tailored to their needs.

Impact activities do not have to be carried out by the person who conducts the research.

It can be much more effective to collaborate with groups who have the appropriate networks or skills to generate impact from research.

This also increases the impact of projects. For example, collaborating with partners in the creative, cultural or heritage sectors to engage the public can have impact both for your collaborators and the public with whom you engage.

Common routes

Common Routes to Impact

Routes to impact all involve various forms of communication and collaboration: making research available to other communities in ways which are useful to them.

Whilst there are some common approaches, there is also room for considerable creativity: impact can happen via any route that is appropriate to the research and the people who might be interested in it.

Common routes to impact include:

The University's impact pages give further information on common routes to impact.

Impact versus impact activities

Impact versus impact activities

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between an impact activity and the impact itself.

Impact is a change for non-academic groups. This can occur as a result of activities planned to encourage impact, but the routes to impact are not the same as the impact itself.

For example, producing research-based teaching materials for use in schools is not impact. If those materials were used by teachers, thereby changing their professional practice, or enjoyed by students, thereby enhancing their educational experience or increasing their understanding of a particular issue, these would be examples of impact.

Dissemination and public engagement are not impact

Evidencing impact requires dialogue and feedback.

Disseminating research is important, but in and of itself is not evidence of impact. It is crucial to plan in ways to hear the other side of the conversation to find out if and how research has had an impact.

Public engagement can be an effective route to impact, but is not impact in and of itself. The impact is the next step: what changed for the people involved. It is important to evaluate public engagement activites in order to understand and capture their impact.

For more information please take at look at the what is impact page.

For more detailed information about different routes to impact, how to approach them and who might be able to help please see the central routes to impact webpages.

Contact us

Helen Jones
Faculty Impact Manager

Natalie Fullwood
Faculty Impact Manager

Lucy Cheseldine
Faculty Impact Administrator