December 4, 2023

Engaging for Impact: The Power of Stakeholder Engagement in Research

Welcome back to our series on research impact! Throughout this series, we have explored various characteristics that contribute to impactful research, including significance, reach, tangibility, novelty, durability, collaboration and transferability. In this installment, we turn our attention to the critical characteristic of “Engagement

Sean Newell

8: Engagement

We delve into the importance of actively involving stakeholders, such as communities, organizations, and individuals, in the research process to maximize its relevance, effectiveness, and long-term impact. 

Definition and Explanation

Engagement, as a characteristic of research impact, emphasizes the meaningful involvement of stakeholders throughout the research journey. It goes beyond traditional models of knowledge dissemination and aims to establish two-way communication, collaboration, and co-creation of knowledge between researchers and stakeholders. Engaging stakeholders ensures research aligns with real-world needs, values, and priorities, fostering shared ownership, trust, and the potential for transformative outcomes. 

Examples that highlight the importance of engagement in research impact: 

1. Community Engagement: Engaging local communities in the research process allows researchers to understand their perspectives, experiences, and needs. For example, a study investigating health disparities may involve community members in the research design, data collection, and analysis to ensure the research addresses community-specific challenges and produces actionable recommendations. 

2. Stakeholder Partnerships: Collaborating with stakeholders from various sectors, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and industry, enhances the relevance and applicability of research outcomes. For instance, a research project focused on sustainable agriculture practices may involve partnerships with farmers, environmental organizations, and policymakers to co-create strategies that balance agricultural productivity with environmental conservation. 

3. Patient and Public Involvement: In healthcare research, involving patients and the public in research design, priority-setting, and dissemination ensures that research is patient-centred and responsive to their needs. For example, patient and public involvement in clinical trials can improve study recruitment, retention, and the relevance of research outcomes to the patient population.

4. Knowledge Exchange Networks: Engaging in knowledge exchange networks and platforms allows researchers to share their findings with policymakers, practitioners, and other researchers. These networks facilitate dialogue, knowledge translation, and the dissemination of research findings across different sectors, maximizing the potential for real-world impact. 

Challenges and Considerations

Engaging stakeholders in research impact comes with challenges: 

  • Identifying and involving relevant stakeholders early in the research process and maintaining their engagement throughout the project lifecycle. 
  • Balancing the diverse perspectives and interests of stakeholders to ensure equitable participation and representation.
  • Overcoming power imbalances and fostering meaningful collaboration, particularly when engaging with marginalized or underrepresented communities. 

Enhancing Engagement

To enhance engagement and maximize research impact, researchers and funders can consider the following strategies:  

  • Adopt participatory research approaches that empower stakeholders as active partners in the research process.  
  • Provide training and support for researchers to develop effective communication and engagement skills.  
  • Allocate dedicated resources for stakeholder engagement, including time, funding, and infrastructure. 


Engagement is a critical characteristic of research impact, enabling researchers to work alongside stakeholders and foster shared ownership, trust, and transformative outcomes. By actively involving communities, organizations, and individuals in the research process, we can ensure that research is relevant, actionable, and has a lasting impact on the lives of those it seeks to benefit.

Join us in our next blog post, where we will explore our final characteristic of research impact: “Policy Relevance.” 

Other blog posts in this series

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