Summary of the first Strategy of Impact Conference

On 16th of November 2017 delegates from around the world of research gathered at the historic Tower of London to discuss the Strategy of Research Impact – what direction is this ever-increasing in relevance and importance topic going to take?

Unlike many of The Tower’s previous ‘guests’ all survived the day and healthy debate ensued from the very beginning when all were taken on a tour of the Crown Jewels. Upon return Sean Newell, Researchfish CEO, formally opened the event by explaining that the day was not about Researchfish but rather about providing the opportunity for the Researchfish community of members to work together in many different areas and learn from each other, exploring impact and the strategy moving forward. 

Caroline Fiennes, Director, Giving Evidence, gave a thought-provoking talk on How Impact is Changing Research. Caroline challenged us all to look at our approach to not only how we use impact data but also how grants are awarded and their whole administrative approach.

Caroline Fiennes’ slides

Dr Steven Hill

Dr Steven Hill, Head of Policy, HEFCE, talked about the REF and the Importance of Impact. Dr Hill explained that the measurement, assessment and evaluation of research impact is an increasing area of activity within universities and that this has largely been driven by externally imposed summative assessment processes.

Steven continued to examine that there are opportunities to use the evidence that is being collected for different purposes: to understand the processes of research, knowledge exchange and impact in near real-time and use that insight to make adjustments to maximise impact.

The talk concluded by discussing that to achieve this we need to focus on improving real-time evidence capture, data-linking and interoperability and that closed datasets are a potential barrier to this.

Steven Hill’s slides

Dr Ian Viney MBE

The morning was rounded off with Dr Ian Viney MBE, Director of Strategic Evaluation and Impact, MRC, discussing Impact Collaboration – the Way Forward. Example case studies and impact reports were discussed, with the key take away that only through collaboration between the key stakeholders will we be able to better understand what leads to impact.

Ian Viney’s slides

The afternoon consisted of three breakout sessions

Research Organisations and Funders working Together more Efficiently

Dr Ian Viney, Director of Strategic Evaluation and Impact, MRC; Gavin Reddick, Chief Data Analyst, Researchfish

Key findings included  that funder and research organisations need to better understand how both parties work; Research organisations need to be able to better utilise the Researchfish data; Shared communication is key to success; Feedback to researchers to inform how the data has been used through Researchfish platform; RO Admin to see what researchers can see while submitting data through the Researchfish platform; and  high level definition of impact is now the same between research organisations and HEFCE.

Priorities for Understanding, Measuring and Reporting Impact

Dr Sarah Thomas, Senior Research Manager, National Institute of Health Research; Dr Beverley Sherbon, Impact & Evaluation Adviser, Researchfish

Key findings included data linkages – enhance data with information from other sources; better alignment with other systems and data sharing across systems/sources (reduce burden, enable landscaping etc.); communication – help improve data quality, aim to explain ‘what’s in it for me?’ For the researchers, feedback to researchers on when/how the information reported has been used; and the ability to track people involved in projects & careers.

Sarah Thomas’ introductory slides
Breakout findings summary

Your Impact Evaluation and Researchfish Development

Giles Mitton, CTO; Cliff Brown, Development Manager, Researchfish

Key findings included Researchfish platform to flag and communicate discrepancies in data to all parties; Better linkages, data sharing, stories and relationships through the platform; Improve data cleansing e.g. duplication, outcomes; Expose standard reports to researchers; Look at how Researchfish can give an indication to the research landscape through the platform;  and functionality that acknowledges organisations as funders.

Cliff Brown’s slides

The day was rounded off with a panel discussion chaired by Dr Thomas Christensen, Chief Operating Officer, Novo Nordisk Foundation, with the breakout chairs and the morning speakers. The main theme was data sharing – what has worked well, what hasn’t and how we can share data better in the future.