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22 September 2019
Managing Research Uptake for Impact Print
Friday, 29 August 2014 14:41

DRUSSA Universities are currently developing their institutional research uptake strategies and these strategies outline their own “pathways to impact”. You will be able to read more in the coming months about these research uptake strategies here on the DRUSSA blog.

Research funders are increasingly focussing on research impact (the ESRC and DFID are just two examples). And they are not just talking about academic impact but social and economic impact as well. Indeed some funders make it an ethical and contractual obligation for researchers to share the results of their research not only with their peers, but also with beneficiaries and policy-makers. This requires planning and implementation of a communication and dissemination strategy for each project, and for management of RU at the institutional level, hence the importance of ‘Research Uptake Management’ (RUM) to optimise the impact of the research.


Research Use strategies are key for impact

Universities have embraced RUM as a way to improve impact. For example Makerere University:

“Makerere took a decision to include RU component in all the research projects/programmes. The reception of this new requirement has been encouraging as many scientists have already embraced it and continue to provide budgets for RU in their engagements with those affected by and interested in their research findings. The buy-in has been fast and with the recent creation of Grants Offices in all Colleges of the University, we are hopeful that RU will receive equal importance as the traditional knowledge generation. The structure to roll-out RUM exists and there is strong will. (Prof  Mukadasi Buyinza, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT), Makerere University) 


What is impact

There are many definitions of impact but they cover common ground. The Research Councils of the UK define impact as 'the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy' and have designed the following diagram to show the various pathways to impact that are possible:


(See the diagram on the Research Councils UK website)


As can be seen from the diagram impact can be on any number of audiences – communities, practitioners, policy makers, businesses or industry. And there are different kinds of impact. The ESRC separates them into the following three categories:

  • Instrumental: influencing the development of policy (policy makers), practice or service provision (practitioners), shaping legislation, altering behavior or attitudes (communities), or processes (in a business for example)
  • Conceptual: contributing to the understanding of issues, reframing debates, altering the discourse
  • Capacity building: through technical and personal skill development


The ESRC notes also that there are different types of impact:

  • Academic impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes to scientific advances, across and within disciplines, including significant advances in understanding, method, theory and application
  • Economic and societal impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent social and economic research makes to society and the economy, of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations


Measuring impact

Measuring impact is a tricky business. Well known in the field of research impact is Sandra Nutley who notes that you can take a forward tracking (from research to use) or a tracking back (from policy or behaviour change back to research) approach. She also identifies two common methods used to assess the impact of research:

  • the “payback” model– which focuses on the value gained from research
  • the “mapping” model– which describes and maps networks and flows of knowledge and the effects of any interactions from research


You also need to consider when you are going to assess impact, what tools you will use (qualitative or quantitative methods) and so on. Whichever way you choose to measure impact you need to build the impact measure at the beginning of your research proposal which is why DRUSSA Universities include research uptake in their funding proposals.


Useful links


Alison Bullen is a content manager for the DRUSSA project, Email: