Impact services supports planning for impact

8th August 2022

Author: Ian Boucher, Impact Liaison and Business Development Manager, Emerald Publishing. Formerly Impact Manager in UK Universities. 

In our previous two blog posts looking at impact planning we have explored why thinking about the impact of our research is becoming increasingly important.

As outlined The value and benefits of impact planning from Saskia Gent, the sector is moving towards a point where actively planning impact into future work is not only desirable but likely to be essential to keep pace with assessment exercises, funder requirements and the general research landscape as it evolves. However, we’ve also heard from academics who are already planning impact actively into their research that whilst the process has huge benefits there are also concerns around the need to preserve the integrity of the research and knowledge exchange process.

Clearly, the ability to plan for impact is important but what isn’t always clear is what is required for researchers to effectively build a plan. More crucially, knowing what to do is distinct from knowing where to start and how to do it. The basic idea that research should be able to make a difference outside the academy, and that the research community has to engage with that process has probably taken seed, at least across those research sectors where impact is assessed and ‘measured’. However, the understanding of exactly what steps to take and how to take them is still very much a learning exercise for many researchers and indeed those research professionals who support impact.

This is where impact professionals within universities and their research institutions become so crucial. Supporting the development of impact planning for research is the first step to a successful delivery of impact. We’ve seen in the past decade across the UK research sector especially, a growth in the number people to support the planning and implementation of these activities. However, this support is still uneven, and it is hard for even the largest of support teams to reach the full breadth of researchers across institutions to support their impact planning knowledge and skills. This can create an environment where there is a mixture of levels of engagement with impact planning and a range of skill levels associated with its development across academic communities.

Impact services looks to bridge those gaps by offering a set of fully guided and supportive tools to enhance researchers’ impact planning knowledge, understanding and skills. The tools have been designed in collaboration with Dr Julie Bayley (Director Research Impact Development, University of Lincoln) and Dr David Phipps (Assistant VP Research Strategy and Impact, York University) who have co-published a series of articles on impact literacy. Crucially, Emerald has also worked alongside the wider research support community to ensure the tools offer appropriate guidance for both researchers and those trying to support them within institutions.

At the heart of impact services is a comprehensive impact planning tool that guides a researcher through the process of building their own (discipline-specific) impact plan. The planning tool is built on a framework that encourages the researcher to consider the specific changes their research will lead to and then develop a comprehensive stakeholder analysis and engagement plan through a series of guided questions. Integrated into the planning tool are support guides explaining the framework, videos to add further knowledge and a comprehensive skills package. This is a series of videos, articles and infographics designed to help researchers tackle their own specific knowledge gaps such as leadership, working with interdisciplinary teams, or communicating their research to non-academic stakeholders. So, rather than being presented with a template, when using impact services, a researcher is guided from the start and a plan is developed in partnership with the tool itself. After development the plan can then be shared with any relevant impact professionals for further support or used as a prompt for the team.

Developing a strong impact plan is often key to enabling effective impact from research as we have seen in the previous blogs from this series. But developing a plan often requires significant support from already-overstretched teams. Impact services can help reduce some of the strain whilst upskilling researchers to feel more confident about their plans to engage relevant stakeholders, shifting the burden from the research support team.

More information and to signup for a demo of the service.

About the author

Ian Boucher Impact Liaison and Business Development Manager - Emerald Publishing

Ian Boucher works for Emerald Publishing on their Impact services platform to help integrate it across the research sector and collaborate with partners to determine how it can benefit and support the activities of universities and research-based institutions.

Ian worked as a Research Impact Manager in UK universities for ten years before joining Emerald and previously had experience in research evaluation, assessment and project management.

Impact services

Impact services is an online subscription service to support researchers in understanding and planning for impact.

It supports research offices in training researchers on impact and helps to build healthy impact cultures.