The allocation of research funding can benefit greatly from robust analysis of what has worked in research. In turn, these analyses can help advocacy initiatives and demonstrate accountability to taxpayers and donors. Capturing and mapping data on the inputs, processes, outputs, outcome and impact of research is crucial for these analyses. In this article we argue that the research community as a whole—including funders, researchers and administrators—is potentially in a position where it can assess or evaluate research not just according to academic outputs (production of knowledge), but also its outcomes and/or impact (effects on society). Using an exploratory framework that assesses effectiveness, efficiency and equity (3e’s) of research and research assessment both in terms of academic outputs and non-academic impact, we also argue that most assessments are primarily examining the effectiveness of research, as tools are not yet available to systematically assess research for its efficiency and equity. This article is published as part of a special issue on the future of research assessment.