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ADRC Wales Measure Impact

Make impact part of the planning and everything you do

Written by Cat Wilkins, ADRC-Wales


ADRC Wales attended an event at Swansea University on Measuring Impact.

The objective of the event was to help researchers and communications staff understand more about impact, and how it can be measured and communicated.

The event was hosted by the wider network of the Health Informatics Group at Swansea University*.

What is impact?

Impact is defined by Research Councils UK (RCUK) as:

The demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy.

Impact results from a change in understanding, perception, services, working practices, health and wellbeing, employability, public behaviour, economic prosperity.

Impact is jobs created, increase in sales, shift in expenditure, changes to public policy or legislation, improved public services (quality, cost effectiveness or efficiency), increased public understanding, improved public health and well-being, change in educational practices…

Impact is the measured difference your research has made in the real world.

Why is impact important?

Impact is central to research. Impact is important to funders for return on investment. Impact is important for researcher profile and what you want to be known for.

Measuring impact is about looking at the effects your research is having outside the walls of the university and academic sphere. Impact is a measurable difference, a measurable change, it involves looking at the metrics.

Anticipate impact

Identify the impact early on in the project cycle and integrate it into daily routine. Ask the following questions:

  • Who are your beneficiaries?
  • What kind of impact will your research have?
  • What is the potential reach?
  • What change do you plan will happen?
  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • How could your work be used?

Identify impact

Impact is about the reach of research, the extent and diversity of its reach, the significance and degree to which it has had an influence. Be specific, give examples: more public engagement as a result of your work; change in public behaviour; change in revenue for an organisation.

Open up lines of communication with people you want to reach and plan this into your project cycle. Establish networks. Think about your stakeholders, anyone who can help push your agenda, and involve them throughout.

Understand the change you are aiming for and what evidence you can use to demonstrate it.

Track impact

Think about systems for recording impact from the start of your project. Create a structured, systematic measurement for tracking impact as part of your plan. Keep an evidence log throughout project cycle. Keep records.

Make tracking part of daily life. Use Google Scholar and Altmetrics: take screenshots. Who has used your work? Has it been cited in policy documents? Engage with everyone within your project: have conversations.

And evaluate!

Funders: what’s in it for them?

Impact matters to funders. It’s about beneficial outcomes. Put impact in terms the funder can go back to the public with: enable positive messages. Funders want to show the public their spending is worthwhile, they are accountable.

Communicate impact

Report on impact, shout about impact, tell your marketing team about impact! Get your research out there. Maximise proposed engagement and impact activity. Capture your impact in a compelling way. Humanise impact and talk about people not just numbers.

*ADRC-W is part of a wider Health Informatics Group at Swansea University Medical School.


Written by Cat Wilkins from ADRC-Wales and published on the ADRN blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Images used with permission.

Published on 19 June 2017

Page last updated: 27/07/2018