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Data, engagement and impact

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What is 'research engagement' and 'research impact'?

In 2018, Australia will undertake its first national Engagement and Impact Assessment (EIA). EIA is one of the measures within the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) of the Australian Government. The assessment will examine how universities are delivering and translating their research into economic, social and other benefits to industries and end-users of research.

In the Australian Research Council’s recently released Engagement and Impact 2018 Framework, “research engagement” is defined as “the interaction between researchers and research end-users outside of academia, for the mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge, technologies, methods or resources”. A “research end-user” is understood as “an individual, community or organisation external to academia that will directly use or direct benefit from the output, outcome or result of the research.” Further, “research impact” is defined as “the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment and culture beyond the contribution to academic research.”

Similarly, the UK’s Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) guideline defines research impact as “an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia” (see page 8, Research Excellence Framework - The results).

Research data is an enabler and pathway to 'engagement and impact'

Research data is a critical information asset which provides an important platform for collaboration between the research sector and the business sector as well as applications in public policy, education, citizen engagement, etc.

Data Impact eBook cover Data sharing for instance can play a pivotal role in collaboration between academia, industries and communities more broadly. As such, research data is a significant enabler or pathway of ‘research engagement and impact’ for many research projects.

The companion case studies report of the Watt review, for instance, highlighted a common pattern of such engagement and impact pathways: a research group builds a trusted data resource from a combination of research and public sector sources which then forms the basis of a long term collaboration and engagement with industry, business, public sector, NGOs, etc.

These collaborations and engagements, in turn, generate social, economic, cultural, environmental or health benefits for stakeholders beyond academia.

Case studies promoted in ANDS’ recent #dataimpact campaign have also illustrated similar benefits and impacts generated from research data.

Contribution of Data to Research Impact: The UK Lesson

The UK Impact Case Studies dataset has been released to the public after the UK REF 2014 assessment exercise. The dataset is collated from submissions of UK universities to the impact component of the REF 2014 research assessment. It provides a rich source of insights into how research has been translated into impact “beyond academia”.

Of particular interest are case studies where data played a pivotal role in generating research impact. A small sample of these “data intensive” impact case studies are listed below, drawn from a variety of disciplines and universities. The “Summary of the Impact” section provides an overview of the research impact.

The 'Details of the Impact' section provides further testimonies of the contribution of data in each of these research impact case studies.