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UKRI: Impact is core to the research application process

Anne Sofie Laegran, Head of Knowledge Exchange and Impact at Edinburgh Research Office, highlights a recent announcement by UKRI on changes to application requirements on ‘Pathways to Impact’.

An update to this blog was posted on 25 Feb.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) recently announced that the requirement for the two page “Pathways to Impact” attachment and “Impact summary” on the Je-S form will be removed for applications submitted after 1st March 2020. For full statement see this link.

This change came as a surprise to the research community – and may beg the question – is impact no longer important? However, already in the title of the statement, UKRI says that Impact is core to the application process, and the text stresses that UKRI exists to fund the researchers who generate the knowledge that society needs, and the innovators who can turn this knowledge into public benefit. The rationale for the change is to make the application process more efficient and effective, to allow researchers to focus their work. Ten years after Pathways to Impact was introduced, UKRI’s view is that impact is now a core consideration throughout the application process and should be reviewed as such.

The announcement followed the publication of a leaked document, which may be why colleagues in UKRI are only now revising their guidance to reflect the change. This includes directed calls on particular topics as well as the various responsive mode schemes.  We don’t know how prescriptive the guidance will be. So far they have just confirmed that impact will form a core part of the assessment process; that consideration of impact should be integrated in the case for support, and the page limit for this will not be extended. Likewise, costs for generating impact should still be included and justified in the Justification of Resource document.

What does the change mean for research applications?

The advice has always been to view impact as embedded in research, not as an afterthought. This will be even more important now that the articulation of how the work will benefit society needs to be integrated in an already tight case for support. Given that guidance is not yet out, we expect that applications submitted in March and shortly after take a flexible approach on how impact is embedded in the application, but as it will form part of the assessment it cannot be left out. In general we would recommend the following as a minimum:

  1. Ensure the importance and potential impact of the research is articulated early on in the application.
  2. Include objectives that relates to how the impact will be achieved.
  3. Highlight any existing engagement with relevant stakeholders, including how they will be involved through the project.
  4. Include plans for dissemination to both academic and research user communities.

If you are planning to submit an application in March or April and are unsure about how to deal with this, please contact your Edinburgh Research Office Research Funding Specialist or local research office.

Edinburgh Research Office will update our resources on knowledge exchange and impact as we get more clarity on the UKRI guidance. Regardless of this, the content of our “how to guides” and “toolkits” about developing pathways to impact are still relevant. Please see the Crafting your research application section on the Edinburgh Research Office website.

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Anne Sofie Laegran


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