Embedding impact into institutional strategy

Oct 15, 2020 | Blog

We have started a new initiative on the international impact discussion list – a monthly discussion point. September’s discussion point was:

Has anyone been able to align the impact agenda against existing institutional strategy as a way of encouraging engagement (either from decision makers or from individual researchers)?

Reflecting the international membership of the list, this drew responses from Australia, The Netherlands, Canada, UK and New Zealand. This blog is a quick round up of the discussion.

One of the observations was the distinction between countries that included impact as part of an assessment process and those that did not. For example, unlike the UK and Australia, Canada does not have an impact assessment exercise. However, there is an organisation called Research Impact Canada, which has produced resources such as “Planning for a research impact office”.

When considering the motivations for or those researchers who are bound by an impact exercise, there was an observation that researchers are more likely to undertake engagement which may or may not align with the institutional impact strategy. Engagement is more aligned with a researcher’s activities as a public scholar, whereas impact is viewed with suspicion and distrust as a potential metric that many disagree with. This observation moved the discussion to one about motivation for embracing the impact agenda. 

Having impact as part of an assessment process changes the approach institutions might take towards impact. And it was pointed out that it potentially creates a disconnect between institutions that say impact *must* happen and researchers for whom impact may not be a personal priority.

There were some Impact Strategies shared within the list:

In addition, the impact aspects of some institutional research strategies were also shared.

The University of Melbourne ‘Advancing Melbourne’ strategy includes amongst the priorities: “Partner with govt and others in growing the knowledge economy, locally and globally” and “Advance research success through targeted investment, enhanced cross-disciplinary partnerships and a renewed emphasis on translation”.

Equally, the Griffith University Strategic Plan 2020 – 2025 has several references to impact including the statement that the university: “will undertake significant, socially relevant research with partners from across and beyond the University to try to ensure that the future is one that brings benefits to as many people as possible. This research will have positive outcomes—socially, economically and culturally—for the people of Queensland, Australia and the world. It will help us to be internationally recognised for the quality and impact of our work”

This discussion raised interesting observations and identified many useful resources, and underlines the value of embedding impact into institutional strategy. For those institutions where this has already happened there is a natural conversation starter with the community. For those institutions developing  or considering impact strategies, these examples can assist institutional thinking.

Remember, if you want to join the conversation you are more than welcome!