Gary Fairclough – Impact Officer
Gary has been an Impact Officer at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) since December 2017, working as part of an impact team across the institution.
Impact has taken on increasing importance during my time at the University. Initially, the focus was one of raising awareness and basic impact literacy across a broad base of academic and support colleagues. Central to this was encouraging members of staff to engage with the ImpactTracker and use it as part of their everyday activities. This began with training followed by one-to-one guidance and support surrounding ImpactTracker aimed at tackling “hearts and minds”. The aim of this was to take the mystery out of impact and highlight that it is an integral part of the modern research process. This helped to make the task more rewarding and encouraged academics to apply these activities in future research activities and recommend them to colleagues.
We developed a simple but detailed ImpactTracker user guide which walks users through the system. By using screen captures of the system it is accessible to all regardless of their level of digital literacy.
Impact was incorporated centrally in the institutional research strategy with eff orts made to incentivise engagement. Senior management supported the impact culture by participating in annual impact reviews, where potential impact case studies were presented to a panel of senior managers, impact experts and external partners (either impact experts from other HEIs and VV or research users) and an audience of academic peers. This highlighted the strength of impact at the University and gave the activities the required heft to ensure buy-in from academics. We have seen successes with academics becoming more aware of activities that can maximise their impact and being more conscientious about collecting evidence and indicators of impact.
Regular impact training delivered both by UCLan staff and external experts (e.g. Fast Track Impact, National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement [NCCPE]) helped improve the depth of understanding and build useful networks within the University.
We have now achieved a basic level of impact literacy across our research-active academics and are moving towards improving the depth of knowledge in these groups. We are broadening awareness amongst early career researchers (ECRs), research students and other members of staff associated with research and innovation.
Impact and ImpactTracker is presented as part of academic research staff inductions and general impact training is provided to our ECR network.
VV-IT will play an increasing part in the impact culture as we encourage broader use of the system beyond the limits of REF and, indeed, research. VV-IT is currently being used by our Creative Innovation Zone team to track the success of their engagement projects with local SMEs.
The main challenge to engagement has been securing academics’ time, which is always a scarce resource. To counteract this we have taken steps to encourage planning for impact and to approach
impact as a “little and often” task that can be fitted into workloads – reflective of impact as a long-term, slow building process. ImpactTracker users are encouraged to use the system in a similar way, with regular, short updates to content.