ImpactFinder Tool Helps Universities Measure the Impact of Research

Context and Overview: The Research Excellence Framework

Sample impact array generated by the ImpactFinder

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a new framework, to be completed in 2014, that the UK Higher Education Funding Councils will use to assess research quality at universities. The primary purpose of the REF is to assess each funding submission made by UK higher education institutions (HEIs), provide accountability for public investment in research, and produce evidence of the benefits of each investment.

In light of the challenges posed by the pending REF, RAND Europe and Ranmore Consulting Group are pleased to offer an analysis and advice package to support universities in their preparations and, crucially, to help them evaluate the impact of their research portfolios.

A New Tool to Measure Impact

We offer to support universities, or individual units of assessment (UoA), in

  • managing their research funding submission process
  • identifying case studies of impact, and
  • critically reviewing case studies or impact statements, and how they evidence impact

We provide support through a combination of workshops, a web-based survey tool, and ongoing communications and engagement. In each case, we work with the university or UoA to develop a comprehensive approach suitable for their needs and strategic challenges.

At the core of this advice package is the RAND Europe ImpactFinder tool — a proven methodology for identifying impactful research. The ImpactFinder methodology was developed initially for the Arthritis Research Campaign and is now used by a number of research funders.

The ImpactFinder provides an overview of research impact and a basis for more detailed examination of the ‘why and how’ of research translation. The tool is implemented as a web questionnaire and collects information across a range of social, cultural and economic impacts. A demonstration site, which is being used by universities that have agreed to take part in the pilot testing of the ImpactFinder, can be accessed at: http://demo.impactfinder.org/.

The resulting data are presented in ‘impact arrays’, which have been developed as a way to display the impacts of research and give an instant overview of the research portfolio. An example of an impact array is shown above: the columns represent different types of outputs and impacts, the rows different projects, and the colouring the intensity or geographic reach of an impact. The presentation of research impact in this way will provide the university with a valuable visual demonstration of impact across its entire research portfolio, as well as the means to select case studies for more in-depth qualitative analysis and begin to collate the evidence needed to demonstrate impact.

RAND Europe Reports about Measuring Research Impact

The following reports by RAND Europe staff helped with the development of the ImpactFinder. More information about REF2014 is available from the HEFCE website.