Research Impact in HEDr Matt Baker Research and Knowledge Transfer, University of Exeter
Why do Universities need todemonstrate their worth and ‘measure’ Impact1. Enable HEIs to monitor and manage their performance and understand and disseminate their contribution to society2. Accountability; demonstrate to stakeholders, government, taxpayer the value of research. Account for spending of public money.3. Inform funding; the socioeconomic value of research to inform funding decisions ‘impact is a strong weapon for making an evidence based case to governments for enhanced research support (Donovan 2011)4. Research Excellence Framework – essentially incorporates all of the above
Evaluating research impact in HEIs• Impact evaluation in UK HEIs started using metrics based approach, IP commercial income etc (still does in some cases – HEBCIS date HEIF etc).• The REF uses a ‘softer’ case study ‘narrative’ approach based on the Australian Research Quality Framework (RQF)with indicators/evidence rather than metrics.• Similar approach to how we might disseminate our worth to a wider audience such as website, press release – but more complex!• Broadly discipline specific taking into account, attempt at a level playing field between disciplines.
Research Excellence Framework (REF)20% Impact (must have occurred 2008-2013 based on research 1993-2013)Assessed or ‘measured’ through peer review of a four page narrative a ‘case study’ describing the ‘impact’ – considered more suitable for academia then a purely metric based approach i.e some impacts of academic research cannot be measured through a metrics based approach. There is no ‘one size fits all’ at present, could there be?‘Uproar’ – not everyone agrees with impact incorporation into the REFThe REF has provided standard impact indicators and ‘measurements’ based around a broadly discipline specific framework/Taxonomy and examples of evidence to work from.Universities spend 2.2milion per year (37 HEIs that provided details) probably almost double this across the sector. New industry sector has been created around impact to hep HEIs with Impact.
Evaluating impact challenges in HEI• Time lag – time between research and impact can vary tremendously .• Transient – can change over time, short and significant versus prolonged and fairly insignificant. Could go bad!• Attribution – serendipity, contribution, random impacts etc• Knowledge creep – knowledge/data becomes excepted over time and not credited because it has become ‘normally accepted’• Gathering evidence – REF retrospective and we didn’t always collect what we needed
Examples 1 - Bisphenol A in Plastics A Professor of Biosciences, with colleagues at Exeter Medical School, published the first large scale studies of the health effects of the endocrine disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in adults. The research identifies associations between exposure to BPA and an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the world’s leading cause of death which has stimulated international policy debate. The results have influenced policy changes to restrict the use of BPA in food contact materials in Canada in 2010, Europe in 2011 and America in 2012. This work raised public awareness of health risks through wide public debate and critical media reviews, and industries have significantly invested in research and development of safer chemical alternatives.
Examples 2 - Influencing Education PolicyResearch led by a Professor of Education at the University of Exeter hasdemonstrated the importance of ‘self-concept’ in learning including self-perceptions ofdyslexic young people. The Professor developed the ‘Myself as a Learner Scale’which has been used in schools throughout the U.K to increase achievement andimprove the formative evaluation of students and teaching, and has beeninstrumental in creating the ‘Thinking Schools’ movement. The Professor’s researchapplying MALS and self-perceptions to dyslexia has informed education policychange through the influential Rose Report on early identification and teachingdyslexic children, which led the government to rethink its approach to dyslexia.