What is research impact?

In general we can say that research impact is the demonstrable change or benefits to the wider society, economy or the environment that arises through research.

An Impact Management System (IMS) can be defined as a platform that provides a technological means for capturing, measuring and/or demonstrating impact from research or other activities. This impact can be social, cultural, environmental, economic or other.

Definition of an Impact Management System (IMS)

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The vocabulary of impact-related terms continues to develop apace. In this article we will address one of the more recent introductions into the terminology – the Impact Management System (IMS), which can be considered to be part of ImpactTech.

What does an Impact Management System do?

There are many different elements to impact, and Impact Management Systems can vary from specialized (i.e. supporting specific components of impact, such as evidence collection or project management) through to holistic, with various impact strands converging into a centralized portal.

An IMS can enable researchers to capture data related to impact, measure impact against indicators, assign evidence to research projects, produce reports that demonstrate various types of impact, plan research projects against impact objectives, alongside a range of other functions.

For Research Managers, it can provide a useful centralized resource for collecting complex sets of data against specific projects that align to assessment frameworks, university objectives or other requirements.

Research Directors gain the ability to quickly access and evaluate research projects across their assigned Unit of Assessments and gain an overall understanding of the direction of these projects.

Some Impact Management Systems also facilitate collaboration between different teams across an institution – for instance, providing a mechanism for public engagement units to support principal investigators with relevant materials.

Overall, an Impact Management System is a product that helps align research projects to impact and removes many of the challenges associated with having to demonstrate complex impact, using automation where possible.

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Why do I need an Impact Management System?

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The need to demonstrate impact can create a whole host of challenges across an institution.

Researchers may need to reshape their thinking when it comes to their projects, and may have to spend additional time in planning, preparation and delivery of their projects such that the impact is more readily understood.

For Research Managers and Research Directors, various deadlines and institutional strategies may require the creation of impact case studies or even other means of showing the impact of researcher activities. This can be driven by wide-ranging factors, such as governmental policies, emerging frameworks or changing public demands.

Impact Management Systems exist to simplify these areas of impact, reduce the burden on researchers, Research Managers and Research Directors, and ultimately demonstrate the impact of your work in the best possible light – with the least possible input.

Evidence collection can frequently pose a significant challenge to researchers, especially if they have to look back over years of research to identify appropriate materials. An IMS equipped to centrally store evidence, however, will make this process easy, by ensuring these materials are available whenever the researcher needs them.

Many templates have been produced (and continue to be produced!) to support impact planning and project management. An IMS can help to keep these in a centralized portal and enable simpler, form-based methodologies for planning and capturing relevant impact information. Reducing the number of different templates and interfaces that teams involved in impact projects need to use naturally increases efficiency and reduces wasted time.

Another use comes in reporting – there are many different frameworks that require the demonstration of impact. An IMS can make it easy to take existing data and export this into a format appropriate for these frameworks, further saving researchers time in having to manually craft multiple different expressions of the hard work they have already carried out.

How much does an Impact Management System cost?

There is necessarily a cost in adopting an IMS.

However, many products will offer different pricing tiers. Typically these can be aligned to the particular needs of an individual institution. For example, a university with hundreds of thousands of enrollments will have very different requirements from a specialized research institute of fewer than a hundred colleagues.

Usually you will be able to access an IMS through a cloud-based subscription model, which can scale up and down depending on your changing impact needs.

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Do Impact Management Systems overlap with existing research platforms?

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There can easily be an overlap between an IMS and existing CRIS, RIMS or otherwise.

However, some Impact Management Systems do integrate with your existing systems, meaning that there is a lower cost associated with the implementation, and that the risk of data duplication is reduced.

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