The ultimate question: who does the research benefit?

Creative Writing with Publishing masters student Lauren Hopkins sat in on a research impact seminar delivered to University of Derby academics by Professor Mark Reed, the leading voice in the field. And she came away with a head full of new ideas.

The importance of impact

The idea of impact is vital for every professional academic when they are considering their research.

I am hoping to pursue a career in academic research. And I am taking a placement with the University Research and Knowledge Exchange Office, which hosted Mark’s visit. So I got a free pass to the seminar (in return for writing a blog about the event).

I have to admit, I did not know much about research impact, and even less about Mark Reed, so I did some research of my own.

Professor Mark Reed is the leading voice in research impact, and has delivered training sessions to over 200 institutions worldwide. In his book, The Research Impact Handbook, he gives researchers tools and advice on how to effectively achieve impact from their work and benefit non-academic audiences. Impact is all about contributing, about making a difference.

Job done. I had researched enough background information to attend the event and not feel completely in the dark. And I understood that research impact is particularly important for academics who are submitting case studies for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The seminar

Mark’s seminar attracted 25 University of Derby academic researchers from a variety of disciplines, such as Health and social care, psychology, forensic science, and education. There were established academics and early career researchers and, while I felt out of place, everyone around me, including Mark, made me feel welcome. He delivered his talk in a way that was understandable and accessible to all levels of knowledge, including my own.

He gave us the tools to understand the impact that we can generate from research. And he simplified it to one question: “Who does the research benefit?”

The group considered this question as they engaged in discussions about the main types of impact that research can have, including impacts in relation to:

  • The economy
  • The environment
  • Culture
  • Health
  • Wellbeing

Mark also reminded us that research can also have a negative impact and this will be scrutinised by the panels of experts who will consider university’s REF 2021 submissions.

Tidal power

My research plan

I found the day fascinating – I love to learn new technical information. I hope to carry out academic research as I feel that my creative background could offer interesting impacts, particularly in the culture and wellbeing sectors. The seminar has given me a lot to think about as I start putting together my PhD proposal.

I had a chance to speak to Mark, and asked him about his experience at the University of Derby. He commented particularly about the enthusiasm of all the staff and how it remained throughout the day in our discussions.

He also talked to Clare Brindley, our Head of Research, Researcher in Impact Larissa Allwork and the rest of the top team charged with delivering REF 2021 for Derby. His comment: “It is clear that impact is part of Derby’s DNA as well as its mission.”

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