Measuring the impact of research: lessons from the UK’s Research Excellence Framework 2014

Gobinda Chowdhury, Kushwanth Koya, Pete Philipson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
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Impactful academic research plays a stellar role in society, pressing to ask the question of how one measures the impact created by different areas of academic research. Measuring the societal, cultural, economic and scientific impact of research is currently the priority of the National Science Foundation, European Commission and several research funding agencies. The recently concluded United Kingdom’s national research quality exercise, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, which piloted impact assessment as part of the overall evaluation offers a lens to view how impact of research in different disciplines can be measured. Overall research quality was assessed through quality of outputs, ‘impact’ and research environment. We performed two studies using the REF 2014 as a case study. The first study on 363 Impact Case Studies (ICSs) submitted in 5 research areas (UoAs) reveals that, in general, the impact scores were constructed upon a combination of factors i.e. quantity of quartile-one (Q1) publications, quantity and value of grants/income, number of researchers stated in the ICSs, spin-offs created, discoveries/patents and presentation of esteem data, informing researchers/ academics of the factors to consider in order to achieve a better impact score in research impact assessments. However, there were differences among disciplines in terms of the role played by the factors in achieving their overall scores for the ICSs. The outcome of this study is thus a set of impact indicators, and their relationship with the overall score of impact of research in different disciplines as determined in REF2014, which would in the first instance provide some answers to impact measures that would be useful for researchers in different disciplines. The second study extracts the general themes of impact reported by universities by performing a word frequency analysis in all the ICSs submitted in the five chosen research areas, which were substantially varied owing to their fields.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e0156978
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2016


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