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What is Research Impact?

The term research impact differs in definition based on aims, users and audiences.
changing the word of change to chance
© Universiti Malaya

There are three (3) key concepts that develop our definition of research impact as follows:

  • Impact is about the effects or outcomes. The effects of an individual’s or organisation’s actions are what matters, not their intentions.
  • Impact is about the effects on things that matter. An effect is only meaningful from the standpoint of impact if it directly or indirectly affects something of value, such as health, reduced suffering, or freedom. This implies that influence must have a subjective component, as people value things differently.
  • Impact is about making a difference. This means that the question of what would have happened if the activity had not occurred (or if an organisation had not been active) becomes important. This introduces the necessity for counterfactual (‘what if’) thinking.

Based on these concepts, we defined research impact as:

“A change in a valuable and measurable outcome with respect to a reference scenario, during a given timeframe. It can be positive or negative, intended, or unintended”.
© Universiti Malaya
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Research Impact (ResPACT): Pathway to impactful projects

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