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Assessing research impact

05 February 2013


Teesside University’s Centre for Enterprise was the venue for a knowledge exchange seminar hosted by Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health.

The speaker was Dr Sarah Morton, Co-Director (Communication and Knowledge Exchange) at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh.

The seminar took place in February 2013 and followed a training event for Fuse students and staff on knowledge exchange issues which she helped facilitate.

Her title was, ‘Assessing research impact: Issues, challenges and ways forward’. She considered the many challenges in assessing the impact of academic research on policy and practice, for example:

>when to assess impact? Too early and impact has yet to occur; too late and it is hard to trace >which methods are best at identifying and illustrating impact? >how can we demonstrate the difference made by research rather than other factors?

Sarah drew from her own research assessing the impact from a research partnership, along with her ten years’ experience in knowledge exchange to explore these issues in more detail.

The main question Sarah addressed was, ‘How can research impact be assessed?’ Her methods included forward tracking (following up), backward tracking (examining how research was used hitherto) and looking at evaluation of initiatives as they are implemented.

A key finding is that implementation takes time and that the effect also diminishes over time. In her work she found some clear examples of impact, including a training programme on sex education and the development of an alcohol policy, some eight years after the publication of the original evidence.

A full summary of her presentation is available on the Fuse website

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