How to maximise impact
There are a number of key factors that are vital for generating impact. These include:
- established networks and relationships with research users
- involving users at all stages of the research, including working with user stakeholder and participatory groups
- well-planned public engagement and knowledge exchange strategies, including the use of product strategies which tailor evidence to the needs of users
- good understanding of policy/ practice contexts eg through use of policy maps
- understand and target barriers to and enablers of change
- portfolios of research activity that build up reputations with research users
- excellent infrastructure, leadership and management support
- where appropriate, the involvement of intermediaries and knowledge brokers as translators, amplifiers, network providers.
These factors relate to the process of generating impact, the context in which research messages are delivered and the content of research. See section on Impact Assessment for examples of recent policy and practice impacts arising from major ESRC investments.
Impact works best if you can tap into pre-existing networks and relationships with research users. Ideally this should be a two-way process: research findings inform the development of policy and practice, which then informs further research.
Such relationships can lead to high-impact opportunities, for example:
- Research assignments on behalf of user organisations
- Providing formal advice directly to policy makers and practitioners
- Producing briefing papers or guidance for the implementation of legislation.
The environment in which you communicate your messages has a bearing on any potential impact.
If you try to promote your findings at a time when policy makers or practitioners are not open to such ideas, this reduces the scope for impact. On the other hand, if your research is timed to coincide with the development of relevant policy issues then it will stand a better chance of making an impact.
It is essential to maintain communication and engagement with research users. For example, an awareness of policy and practice debates and initiatives will help you to time your work most effectively to achieve the best end results.
The extent to which the content of your research fits with the context in which it is disseminated will have a bearing on its capacity to generate impact.
Building ongoing relationships with your research users is key to ensuring that any research is relevant and timely. For example research based on a sound understanding of policy and practice agendas has a better chance of influencing those agendas.
It is important and helpful to keep records of any activities associated with research impact at all stages of the research process. This helps maintain networks with potential stakeholders and, eventually, ease the process evaluating research impact. See the section on Final Reporting for further guidance about this
To find out more about planning impact, see the section on developing an impact plan.
Next step, what the ESRC expects.