PEYou wouldn’t think six letters could cause such confusion or in some cases, panic! As part of the Think Ahead team, my role enables me to be in a variety of settings both with researchers and professional services colleagues and frequently we end up talking about ‘impact’. The trouble is, it means different things to different people. When faced with that reality, in my opinion there’s only one answer – Dictionary.com:

  1. the striking of one thing against another; forceful contact; collision
  2. an impinging
  3. influence; effect
  4. an impacting; forcible impinging
  5. the force exerted by a new idea, concept, technology, or ideology

I don’t know about you but I’m not necessarily any the wiser. The best way I can think to express it, is that an ‘impact’ can be most thoroughly viewed as something that causes change (positive or negative). Simplistic perhaps but sometimes that is the easiest way to start. Upon reflection, I began to wonder if this conundrum is one being faced by our researchers across the university?

According to RCUK and there are a multitude of ways research can have ‘impact’ (academic, economic & societal) but if you’ve misplaced your crystal ball, how do you begin to imagine where and how the results of your labour can effect change? I don’t have the answer to that one but what I do know is that all the wise owls say think about it from the beginning. As I understand it, your ‘Pathway to Impact’ begins with the research idea and can in fact shape the funding proposal. If you are supporting the realisation of someone else’s idea, perhaps find out where they were and now are in their thinking about the impact – you might find it has changed along the way. I don’t think it is ever too early to imagine the piece of the utopia jigsaw you and your work will be because as much as the research and its outputs will pave the way, you are the one who can create the change. The University of Sheffield  is really interested in hearing our local researchers views on ‘impact’, so if you fancy sharing your story, please share your thoughts via the Excellence With Impact blog. If that’s a bit too much, too soon, comment on this post – I welcome alternative perspectives. For support with formulating your impact story, get in touch.