Durham University

Science Outreach

Pathways to Impact

Since April 2009 all Research Councils, with the exception of the MRC, have required the inclusion of an ‘Impact Summary’ and ‘Impact Plan’ to demonstrate that applicants have considered the benefits of their research to the wider 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.

The ‘Pathways to Impact’ attachment should state in as clear terms as possible, how you will take your findings from academic to other communities, and how far along this path you expect to get in the life of the project. You should describe how you are going to achieve the impact and not just what the impact is going to be. You should choose mechanisms for achieving impact which are appropriate for the beneficiaries.

The application requires you to reflect on impact in two sections, an Impact Summary, on the form, and a two page attachment called Pathways to Impact. The Impact Summary is aimed at the general public and should provide a short description of who you think may be interested in the research and how they will benefit. In Pathways to Impact you outline what you will do to make beneficiaries aware of the research so that impact can be achieved.

The Science Outreach team 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.

Both the Impact Summary and Impact Plan should be written by the applicant and should focus on the research described within the application. The Research Councils have 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.

A Summary of Guidelines from RCUK

What should I include in an Impact Summary?

The Impact Summary should 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?

What should I include in an Impact Plan?

The Impact Plan is your opportunity to describe how the potential impacts of this research will be realised. The Pathways to Impact attachment should not exceed 2 sides of A4 in 11pt type.

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. If there are any resource implications arising from the proposed impact activities, funding for those resources can be requested. The costs associated with those resources need to be included in the financial summary and in the Justification of Resources.

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.