Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsEUAN RITCHIE: Research makes a massive difference, I think, in terms of how we understand the world. So if we look around us, pretty much everywhere you look science has dramatically changed your lives. So from the car you drive to the clothing you wear, research really has a powerful effect on our lives in a whole range of ways. Tangible ways like I just mentioned, but also I think really in helping us to understand the world that we're a part of and how it works. So I think it's a fascinating in that sense. But I think also it really kind of appeals on a human level that we really want to understand things and the great unknown if you like.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsSo research is really important in that context. But it also is important in affecting policy and management decisions. So as an example, governments may have particular policies around how they manage invasive species or how they manage native wildlife. And these policies are developed using scientific information, of course research informs that.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 secondsSHARYN RUNDLE-THIELE: Our research does make a difference because we walk out into the community and we run a programme, testing whether a household can be encouraged to waste less fruit and veg. So to do all of that work we have to first go out and work with people to understand the programme that we need to deliver that's going to help meet their needs. And then we also run the research to actually assess ourselves for how well we've actually delivered change. So when you look at a recent project we actually did for a programme we called Waste Not, Want Not, we actually went out in the target community and we actually asked them what was in their fridge.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 secondsAnd then we used that list of items of so the most commonly occurring things in your fridge, whether it be milk, apples, carrots, we use those to actually develop a series of recipes to give to households to help them to reuse what's already in their fridge rather than rushing into the super market to buy more.

Skip to 2 minutes and 0 secondsBRAD AISBETT: The way that I look at research impact is to look at how is it affecting the people that you're designing your research for? So is your research, once published, is it informing other academics? Is it changing the way that particular working groups write their policies or conduct themselves in their workplaces? And when it comes to the benefits of that research, is it reducing the risk of disease, is it increasing jobs, is it positively impacting society? So a research impact is multi-layered and needs to be looked at accordingly.

Skip to 2 minutes and 38 secondsJILLIAN BLACKMORE: It's a very difficult question because you never quite know what happens to your research. At an anecdotal level, I know that if I've written a book, for example, around leadership in schools and in higher education, if someone comes up to me as a principal of a school and says, "I read your book and it was absolutely unbelievably helpful, it was my life. You seemed to understand me and it's actually helping me think about my work." That to me, at an individual level, means I have had an impact. But of course, we want to have more than just the individuals coming to you and making you feel good.

Skip to 3 minutes and 12 secondsI think at certain levels you would see your research takes off in various ways. Where you're influencing policy, you see your research cited in policy text. I think you know your research has impact when you are going out into schools and you see teachers using some of your research. This is probably less in my field but with others who are working in the area say, on pedagogy, pedagogical practices in say the use of technology, and I will go out and see the use of that research.

Skip to 3 minutes and 46 secondsIn other instances you know that you've put some of your research up on your website and you know that you get teachers, and principals, and other people coming to you and asking you to go off and do more research in that area or working with them in that because they found what you were doing was important and significant. So there's multiple ways. And of course, the way the university measures us and the government is through citations but that's actually impact only within our own academic world, and sometimes in government but not as much as we would like.

Research impact

Why does your research matter?

Most of us would feel unsatisfied if it didn’t. No matter how well a research project is conceived and carried out, most of us want to know that doing it has helped to make things a bit better.

Research impact is defined by the Australian Research Council (ARC) as ‘the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.’

Measuring research impact has become a big deal in recent years. If you’re able to demonstrate that your research has had an impact, you’re more likely to receive backing for further research and your research is also more likely to be applied in other contexts.

So, how do you collect evidence of your research impact?

There are several common measures of research impact that are discussed in this fantastic resource developed for the course by the Deakin University Library.

These include measures based primarily on publication, such as how widely your research is circulated, how many other researchers cite it and how prestigious the academic journal that picks it up is. It helps to do well in these measures if you want to pursue a career as a researcher.

Another approach is to identify the evidence that could help you to evaluate whether or not you’ve met your aims successfully.

Take Miranda Blake’s research from Why Numbers Matter as an example. Her team had at least two aims:

  • to encourage store owners to raise the price of sugary drinks
  • to add pressure onto government to introduce a sugary drinks tax.

The team can report that the convenience store which took part in the study continued on with it and that other retailers have also followed suit.

Similarly, Miranda can point to a great deal of media attention (and now attention in a free open course) given to her results, which help to build pressure on government to act.

Like Miranda, once you’ve identified the evidence you could collect, to prove your impact you’ll need to collect it and figure out how to analyse it.

Sound familiar? That’s right, developing evidence of your research impact is, itself, a bit like a miniature research project.

Your task

Take a look through these resources on research impact, developed for this course by the Deakin University Library.

Then, go back and take a look at your aims.

Against each aim, identify means in which you could keep track of whether or not it has been realised. What evidence can you collect that you have met each aim?

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This video is from the free online course:

Why Planning Your Research Matters

Deakin University