Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Supporting Knowledge Mobilization and Research Impact Strategies in Grant Applications

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Supporting Knowledge Mobilization and Research Impact Strategies in Grant Applications

Article excerpt

Background

The academic research enterprise has always been measured on inputs (such as external funding, dedicated research space, infrastructure) and more recently on outputs (international databases ranking publication performance and citation indices), but what about the impacts of research? Publication citations are a proxy for scholarly impact, albeit a contentious proxy (Archambault & Gagné, 2004), especially for the humanities and creative arts. But what about beyond the academy, such as impacts of research on the economy, health and wellbeing, society, culture and the environment ? The Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences (2014) has articulated that humanities and social science research can have impacts not only on scholarship and training but also on the economy, society/culture and on public policy. All UK universities are assessed through the Research Excellence Framework [www.ref.ac.uk] in which universities are scored on their ability to articulate their research excellence (80%) and impact of research beyond the academy (20%) such as positive changes in society, economy, culture, health and the environment.

In Canada, the impacts of research are a feature of most research funding programs. Every grant application submitted to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) (2015) requires an outcomes statement (what impacts are anticipated) and a knowledge mobilization strategy (how those impacts will be achieved). The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (2012) and most Canadian health charities require grant applicants to articulate a knowledge translation strategy that articulates what impacts will occur and what efforts will be made to achieve them. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) requires a commercialization plan for grant applications that involve collaboration with industry.

Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) [http://www.nce-rce.gc.ca/] are uniquely designed to achieve socioeconomic impacts arising from academic research and training. Traditional NCE networks receive $4-5M per year for five years with an option to apply for renewal for an additional two five-year cycles. This results in a potential investment of up to S75M over 15 years. The plans for Knowledge and Technology Exchange and Exploitation (KTEE) and the involvement of Networks and Partnerships are two of five evaluation criteria.

Similar strategies are required by applicants to the seven funders that comprise the Research Councils UK (RCUK). For example, the Economic and Social Research Council requires considerations of impact in all grant applications:

In line with the common position on Excellence with Impact adopted by RCUK, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) expects that the researchers it funds will have considered the potential scientific, societal and economic impacts of their research... Applicants should actively consider how these can be maximised and developed through the Pathways to Impact document (formerly known as Impact Plan) in their application. (Economic and Social Research Council, 2016c, para. 2)

The RCUK has made it a requirement for funding to include a satisfactory impact strategy, confirming the importance of these impact strategies to the application for funding. In their response to recommendations arising from a review of pathways to impact the RCUK stated:

Recommendation 3: RCUK should emphasise the need throughout the application process and the importance of a carefully considered Pathways to Impact as part of the good research proposal.

RCUK Response: A clearly thought through and acceptable Pathways to Impact statement is an essential component of research proposals and a condition of funding. Grants will not be allowed to start until a clearly thought through and acceptable Pathways to Impact statement is received. Research Councils have agreed that if an application is considered excellent for research in terms of the proposed research but has a poor Pathways to Impact statement, funding will be withheld until a clearly thought through and acceptable Pathways to Impact statement has been received. …

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