Rethinking Research Impact / Repenser l’impact de la recherche

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact, York)

Some new thinking from researchers helps to refine our thinking about the impact of research and how we measure the “impact” (or “contribution”) research might have on policy and practice decisions.

De nouvelles réflexions de chercheurs nous aident à redéfinir notre compréhension de l’impact de la recherche et la manière dont nous mesurons « l’impact » (ou la « contribution ») que peut avoir la recherche sur les décisions en matiere de politiques et de pratiques….

Thank you Sarah Morton. Sarah Morton is co-director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships at the University of Edinburgh. She came to Toronto to visit ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (York) for 2 weeks. During that visit she made a presentation to the Southern Ontario KTE Community of Practice, met with eight civil servants from Municipal Affairs & Housing, Health & Long Term Care, Education, Food & Rural Affair and Cabinet Office and with Ben Levin’s group at Research Supporting Practice in Education (RSPE). After a weekend in Barrie’s Bay, Sarah came back to Toronto and the world of KMb for a meeting with the International Alliance of Leading Educational Institutions, York’s KMb Expo and then the KTE CoP again where Sandra Nutley (Research Unit for Research Utilization, also the University of Edinburgh) also made a presentation.

As someone from CRFR tweeted “@CRFRTweets: Sarah Morton’s met more knowledge translators in the last 2 days in Toronto than in 10 years in Scotland” (June 7, 3:45pm).

Two meetings stood out for me. Amanda Cooper presented work on evaluation of 44 knowledge intermediary organizations in education including RIR. I won’t preempt her publication by disclosing her results but her evaluation framework was made public at the Canadian Society of the Studies in Education meeting at Congress 2011 in Fredericton. She evaluated the websites of those 44 knowledge intermediaries and scored them on their presentation of their efforts for KMb products, KMb events and KMb networks. Because KMb is a people mediated process, events and networks get weighted more heavily than products in their evaluation framework. This is one of the first quantitative evaluation frameworks for a system of KMb – most frameworks measure the effects of individual KMb interventions. I look forward to Amanda’s forthcoming paper so we can have a fullsome discussion of this methodology and seek to test it in other settings.

Sarah Morton also has something to add to the discussion of the impact of research. Her research brings together some of the work of Sandra Nutley on the spectrum from conceptual to instrumental uses of research along with work on contribution analysis. In her work she is reframing the concept of research impact to research contribution. This shift in emphasis might make assessments of contribution more achievable than assessments of impact. As with Amanda’s work I look forward to Sarah publishing her methodology so we can have a good kick at it and try it out in different settings.

Thanks to @KMbeing, Sarah’s talk was live tweeted. You can see the live tweets here- Research Use In Different Contexts TweetChat and download her power point presentation here- What really makes an impact? Understanding research use in different contexts.

One thing is for sure. If contribution analysis is successful in moving the discourse from the “impact” to “contribution” we won’t be changing our name. We’re ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche. Our contribution is our impact.

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