How do organisations implement research impact assessment (RIA) principles and good practice? A narrative review and exploratory study of four international research funding and administrative organisations

Adam Kamenetzky, Saba Hinrichs-Krapels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Public research funding agencies and research organisations are increasingly accountable for the wider impacts of the research they support. While research impact assessment (RIA) frameworks and tools exist, little is known and shared of how these organisations implement RIA activities in practice. Methods: We conducted a review of academic literature to search for research organisations' published experiences of RIAs. We followed this with semi-structured interviews from a convenience sample (n = 7) of representatives of four research organisations deploying strategies to support and assess research impact. Results: We found only five studies reporting empirical evidence on how research organisations put RIA principles into practice. From our interviews, we observed a disconnect between published RIA frameworks and tools, and the realities of organisational practices, which tended not to be reported. We observed varying maturity and readiness with respect to organisations' structural set ups for conducting RIAs, particularly relating to leadership, skills for evaluation and automating RIA data collection. Key processes for RIA included efforts to engage researcher communities to articulate and plan for impact, using a diversity of methods, frameworks and indicators, and supporting a learning approach. We observed outcomes of RIAs as having supported a dialogue to orient research to impact, underpinned shared learning from analyses of research, and provided evidence of the value of research in different domains and to different audiences. Conclusions: Putting RIA principles and frameworks into practice is still in early stages for research organisations. We recommend that organisations (1) get set up by considering upfront the resources, time and leadership required to embed impact strategies throughout the organisation and wider research 'ecosystem', and develop methodical approaches to assessing impact; (2) work together by engaging researcher communities and wider stakeholders as a core part of impact pathway planning and subsequent assessment; and (3) recognise the benefits that RIA can bring about as a means to improve mutual understanding of the research process between different actors with an interest in research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
JournalHealth Research Policy and Systems
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Impact
  • research assessment
  • research evaluation
  • research funders
  • research funding organisations
  • research impact assessment
  • RIA
  • science of science

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