What on Earth is Impact? by Mike Higton

Higon, Theology, DurhamSo, at long last, the REF (Research Excellence Framework) results are out, and members of the Department have suspended their scepticism about the value of the process and the meaningfulness of the results just long enough to celebrate the outcome.

One of the areas in which we did well was ‘Research Impact’ – which, for REF purposes, is defined 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’ generated by some piece of research.

The definition and measurement of ‘impact’ is, however, controversial. Earlier this year, I finished a project that I had been working on with colleagues from other departments around the country, in which we set out to examine the whole idea of ‘impact’ more closely. We talked to a range of academics who work in the area of Christian doctrine, and we talked to a range of people from outside Higher Education who have sometimes collaborated with doctrine specialists, or drawn on their work. We asked each of them to tell us, What does real impact look like?

We published our findings in a report – Christian Doctrine and the Impact Agenda – which you can download from our webpage. It tells you a bit more about the kinds of impact that researchers in this area have, but it also contains a few questions about the way that processes like the REF try to measure it.

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