Impact, Impact everywhere but not a drop to drink.
Is impact an important part of the modern research landscape?
Yes, because achieving impact beyond academia is an important outcome of research and increasingly a formal requirement. It was part of the last REF (20% of the overall result) and research funders want to know how your work will be impactful.
No, because ‘Impact’ is not a modern phenomenon, academics/researchers have always made an impact, it is and always has been part of the job. Most of the best researchers are motivated by a greater purpose than just career progression and it is integral to their teaching. Whether it is through commercialisation of a new widget or process, developing treatments, informing policy, leading teaching practice, training future researchers or non-academic communication and outreach, there are many possible routes for research Impact to be realised.
Communication is often the first thing that comes to mind when considering research impact and although communication is only a small part of the impact picture, it certainly can be an effective and valuable way to raise awareness and stimulate debate. The good thing is that in the age of self publishing and digital communication there is no reason why researchers can’t get involved with research communication and in doing so gain skills. The Tyranny of Relevance and the Art of Translation (Fliders, M. 2013. The Tyranny of Relevance and the Art of Translation, Political Studies Review, 11 (2), 149-157. doi/10.1111/1478-9302.12011) contains an excellent communication strategy that can be transferred and adapted to many disciplines.
The paper explores research relevance, impact and engagement from the perspective of political science and in light of the Impact Agenda and a need “to rediscover the art of translation”. The author suggests that a strategy for doing this is by engaging the a non-academic audience using accessible communications and specifically “Triple Writing”. Triple Writing is the practice of writing a piece aimed at practitioners and a lay article based on an academic publication and is summed up in table 4 of that publication:
In the future it is likely this kind of activity will be widely accepted as common practice and in some labs/groups/disciplines it already is. Before you get stuck in consider the Who, What, Where, When and Why of communicating your research, the planned audience and method, and remember not to disclose sensitive information whether it is related to IP, privacy or what ever. Also head over to/contact The Public Engagement Team who can offer expert help and advice or find a local outlet for your writing. Unsurprisingly there are also tons of resources online. Here is a good place to get started: http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/category/how-to/