RAND Europe Focus on Research Impact

Research with charts and laptop

Research impact has a variety of definitions, depending on the type of research and the motivations of those funding the research. At RAND Europe, we measure the impact of research by the resulting social, cultural or economic changes. These changes may create positive benefits or avoid harm. They may involve products, processes, behaviours, opinions, policies and practices. And they may benefit individuals, organisations, communities, or entire nations.

Universities have increased their focus on measuring and understanding their own research impact. Doing so allows them to prove the value of their research and justify funders' investments. RAND Europe has pioneered methods to measure research quality and identify research impact. We also work with a range of existing methodologies to evaluate research programmes. Our work supports several universities and research funders both in the UK and overseas.

ImpactFinder Helps Measure the Effects of Research

ImpactFinder, developed by RAND Europe, is an analysis and advice package to support universities as they prepare for Research Excellence Framework assessments. It helps them evaluate the impact of their research portfolios and provides a basis for more detailed examinations of the ‘why and how’ of research translation. ImpactFinder collects information across a range of social, cultural and economic impacts. It is available for universities to use to can gain a better understanding of their research impact and identify strengths and areas for improvement.

Evaluating the Submission Process for the REF's Impact Element

RAND Europe engaged with 21 higher education institutions in England, Scotland, and Wales to understand their experience with the impact submission process of the Research Excellence Framework. Researchers also consulted with three broad stakeholder groups through site visits, face-to-face and telephone interviews, online surveys and a cost-benefit analysis. The report offers robust conclusions on the benefits and limitations of the submissions process and recommendations on how to improve it. The study identified areas to improve to ensure the process was fair, reliable and robust before the roll-out of REF 2014.

Characteristics of High Performing UK Research Units

The Policy Institute at King’s and RAND Europe conducted a preliminary analysis of the characteristics of high performing research units within the UK’s higher education institutions (HEIs). To identify these characteristics, researchers sourced evidence through interviews and a workshop with academics from institutions that had scored highly in the REF 2014 submissions in the areas of research and impact. The report aimed to highlight a range of strategic approaches that can deliver excellent research, not just those relevant to the REF.

Reviewing Impact Assessment in Australia

The Australian Technology Network of Universities asked RAND Europe to review the Excellence in Innovation for Australia (EIA) Impact Assessment Trial. The aim was to assess how well Australian universities identified and demonstrated impact, and how the process could be further improved. The report provides a detailed review and analysis of the trial guidance, case studies and their scores, and the surveys completed by institutions and case study authors.

Developing a System to Measure Research Impact in Oman

The Research Council of Oman appointed RAND Europe to measure the performance and impact of its funded research. Using bibliometrics, an ImpactFinder survey and case studies, the study provided the council with unique data on the performance of Omani research institutions and on the wider social and economic impacts generated through the research council’s funding. Following the study, RAND Europe developed a dashboard of indicators to measure research impact, as outlined by the council's National Research Strategy, which has been integrated into their business processes.