In March 2020 UK Research and Innovation announced that applicants would no longer be required to provide a ‘Pathways to Impact’ plan or complete an ‘Impact Summary’ within any grant proposal.
Whilst a separate Pathways to Impact statement is no longer required, applicants must still consider how they will or might achieve impact throughout their projects and must include this as part of their Case for Support.
All research grant and fellowship applicants must consider how they will or might achieve impact outside the scientific community. These Impact Statements should identify the societal and economic impact of the planned research, in addition to the advance in scientific knowledge. In addition, they should cover the methods that will be used to ensure the impact of research is maximised.
Science Engagement are happy to provide guidance to researchers including Public Engagement and Outreach activities in their Impact Statements. Researchers should recognise that the level of support that is available will relate to the amount of time available to advise on Impact before the grant submission deadline. We would urge applicants interested in including Public Engagement activities in their Impact Statements to contact us early on in the grant writing process.
The Impact Statement should be written by the applicant and should focus on the research described within the application. The Research Councils have previously indicated that they will not accept generic proposals from institutions. Therefore, it is not appropriate for Science Outreach to provide generic pro forma to include in submissions.
What could I include in an Impact Statement?
The Impact Statement could address the following questions:
Who (outside the academic community e.g. public, schools, industry, government etc.) might benefit from this research?
How might they benefit from this research?
The onus is on the applicant to consider and address the following if appropriate to research of this nature; methods for communications and engagement, collaboration and exploitation in the most effective and appropriate manner. Activities to realize impact do not have to be cost-incurring, but relevant costs can be included and must be fully justified within the Justification of Resources statement. The Case for Support page limit will not be increased as a result of this change.
Top tips from the NCCPE
All impact generating activity, including public engagement must be linked directly to the research you apply to conduct. Generic public engagement with science is not appropriate in this context.
Engagement with the general public is good, but RCUK would like to see more engagement with users of research, i.e. people who can utilise research to improve policies, services and processes.
If you claim potential impact on policy or practice, you must demonstrate that you understand how change is made in your area. Your research identifying a problem does not in itself change policy!
Do show that you have a track-record in public engagement, but the focus should be on future activities linked to this particular project, not past achievements.
It may be easier to think of Pathways to Impact if you link this to milestones within the project and tailor activities linked to each deliverable.
Make sure all impact generating activities within the lifetime of the project is costed, but also make sure you don’t cost things that should be covered by the indirect costs the University receives as part of the grant. Seek advice from your research support officers on this.
No impact? For some “blue skies” theoretical research it may be hard to imagine any non-academic impact within the foreseeable future. This is fine. However, before you use the option of explaining why your research won’t have impact, please consider whether there are 1) ways you can engage with special interest groups through for example magazines, talks in societies, festivals, or through social media groups and 2) ways you can engage with other more applied disciplines who may be able to take the insights from your project further.