Research Impact

What is research impact?

There are many definitions of impact. The Research Councils UK defines research impact as “the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy.” Research impact embraces all the diverse ways that research-related skills benefit individuals, organizations, and nations. According to the Metric Tide Report, “research has a societal impact when auditable or recorded influence is achieved upon non-academic organization(s) or actor(s) in a sector outside the university sector itself—for instance, by being used by one or more business corporations, government bodies, civil society organizations, media or specialist/professional media organizations or in public debate."

In general, impact describes the reach and influence of a scholar’s work. Impact is often measured by quantitative measures (i.e., metrics) designed to help evaluate research outputs. As the number of citations increases, the impact of the research is demonstrated to have significance. At some point in your career as a researcher, you are expected to publish the outcomes of your research and demonstrate its impact. The assessment of impact attempts to examine:

  • how many scholars have continued the conversation by citing your articles
  • who is citing your articles
  • what kinds of outcomes has your research led to
  • who is noticing your research etc.

Why measure research impact?

Research impact is an important aspect of the research lifecycle that is complicated the ever-changing research metrics landscape. There is a growing number of methods used to measure research impact and being able to find the appropriate metrics is important in demonstrating the value of your work. 

By measuring how your research impacts a field or discipline and how it impacts the world around you can:

  • Discover how research is being utilized
  • Ensure research is appropriately credited
  • Enrich promotion, tenure, annual reviews
  • Enhance grant applications, renewals, progress reports
  • Showcase public profiles and academic accomplishments
  • Demonstrate impact on university/institution rankings and return on research investment

This guide introduces some common measures, such as author, journal, article, and alternative metrics.  Additionally, this guide touches on the benefits of having a research identity and how to set up your identifiers. Librarians can also help determine research impact. For more information, contact your Research Communications Librarian.