“Research Impact & Public Engagement” : career advice and tips for researchers

Multicoloured explosion of impact
Jobs.ac.uk ran a Google Hangout today on “Research Impact & Public Engagement”. The full hour is well worth viewing! One interesting question posed to the panellists was how to demonstrate your own impact. Answers included:
  • At the start of any research, have a clear framework in terms of aims & objectives, audience & stakeholders, what kind of impact you are aiming for. This makes it much easier to evaluate and demonstrate.
  • Talk to the right people: particularly important for early career researchers – talk to colleagues who are doing it well and to the university’s REF support staff about how to demonstrate harder aspects of public impact. They can help to explain the options.
  • Things that are measurable (citations, altmetrics) do not always demonstrate impact but exploring them can give evidence – what are the conversations happening online about your research? Who is talking about/citing it? The metrics can be “signals” for impact but usually need exploring and quantifying (e.g. percentiles) to give a context.
  • Look outside academia for expertise in evaluating engagement e.g. the BBC, museums, science centres are all leaders in this.
The panellists also all praised the value of practising “open research” as much as possible – the more people that can read it, reuse or explore the data/software, the more opportunities there are for public engagement. It was also emphasized that openness can be a great asset on an academic CV.
The final “takeout” suggestions from the panellists were:
  • Charlotte Mathieson: start small, think about digital channels, develop public engagement experience from the start of your research career.
  • Steven Hill: do the best research possible, take whatever steps you can to disseminate it widely and think about how it may be useful outside academia.
  • Stacy Konkiel: use all tools at your disposal to understand your feedback loop (e.g. the Altmetric bookmarklet or subscribe to Impactstory). See where you are winning and where could be improved?
  • Ann Grand: engagement is about receiving as much as transmitting – it will have a value for a researcher too.
Suggested resources included:
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