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Research Impact

What is research impact?


Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment: “A change to the economy, society or environment, beyond contribution to knowledge and skills in research organisations." 

Health Research Council: "The direct and indirect influence of excellent research on individuals, communities, or society, including improvements to health and equity, and other social, economic, cultural or environmental benefits for New Zealand."

In Aotearoa New Zealand it is important to consider benefit to Māori. Refer to Vision Mātauranga - a framework providing strategic direction for engaging in research that is relevant to Māori.

Why is impact important?

  • It justifies public research funding
  • It helps research institutions meet social responsibilities
  • It informs research, science and innovation policy (distribution of funding)
  • It makes research more relevant and connected to end-user needs

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. (2019). The impact of research: Position paper. 

Health Research Council of New Zealand. (2019). Making a difference: The Health Research Council investment impact report. 

Planning for impact

Consider the potential impact your research will have and create a plan for achieving it.

  • Be clear about the need for your research - who will benefit and how? Set impact goals.
  • Create a pathway to impact plan
  • Set early, specific, realistic expectations of your research against which progress can be monitored.
  • Determine who your stakeholders are, how they can influence change and how you can engage with them.

Developing a pathway to impact is increasingly required in funding applications.  


These are useful to help you plan for impact.

HRC: Pathway to Impact Model
MBIE: Results Chain Framework


Create a plan using these headings - enter information relevant to your research in each column.

Inputs: existing knowledge, including Mātauranga Māori, skills, people, relationships, equipment, facilities.
Activites: research, experimentation, theorising, creation, engagement, collaboration, training
Outputs: publications (for example articles, theses), creative outputs, datasets, software, patents, services
Outcomes: policies, tools, programmes, therapies, licenses, exhibitions, media coverage, citations.
Impacts: the change (benefit) resulting from the outcomes - to individuals, communities and society.

Maximising impact

Real world impact

  • Directly engage with your stakeholders, e.g. - iwi, community organisations, charities, business, industry and health agencies/providers
    • begin early in your research process and engage throughout the project
    • consider how you will engage, the barriers to engagement, and how your stakeholders will benefit
    • assist stakeholders to implement change, for example, run or co-design workshops
  • Communicate and promote your findings in clear, accessible, appealing and actionable ways
    • create summaries, infographics, videos
    • promote your research through news outlets and social media
    • write for The Conversation
    • provide links to the research output when communicating via news and social media
    • analyse sources of attention and engage further with this (via Altmetrics and Overton library databases)

Academic impact

  • Consider publishing in Open Access journals and making your research data open
  • Make your research output available open access on Tuwhera
  • Write your title and abstract carefully to facilitate findability and readership 
  • Create ORCiD and use ORCiD in your publications
  • Create and maintain researcher profiles including your AUT academic profile
  • Collaborate strategically, both locally and internationally

Measuring impact

Measuring the full impact of your research can be difficult!

  • Bibliometric tools can be used to analyse the scholarly impact of publications and researchers. 
  • Alternative metrics and qualitative evaluation can be used to assess collect evidence of impact beyond the academy.

These readings provide more insight into the complexities of measuring research impact:

Responsible metrics

It is important to acknowledge the limitations of using metrics to evaluate research.  Responsible use of metrics means using them in an ethical and appropriate way, in conjunction with qualitative assessment of research outputs and activities.