Research impact

For further information relating to research impact and knowledge exchange, please contact Dr Michelle Ierna.

What is impact?

Impact is defined as a demonstrable effect, change or benefit that research makes to the economy or society beyond academia. Our Research Centre for Health (ReaCH) researchers work across a wide range of projects to ensure that we address society's biggest challenges. While the centre recognises that tackling these grand societal challenges requires interdisciplinary work across GCU and collaboratively with other organisations, our priority is to align our research to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 Good Health and Wellbeing. The impact of our research on the wider world has been recognised through the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the University’s commitment to the Common Good. The REF defines impact more comprehensively as "an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia" (REF2021).  RCUK defines impact as “the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy by fostering global economic performance, the economic performance of the UK, increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy, enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.”

The impact of research be it academic, economic and social can include:

  • Instrumental: influencing the development of policy, practice or service provision, shaping legislation, altering behaviour
  • Conceptual: contributing to the understanding of policy issues, reframing debates
  • Capacity building: through technical and personal skill development
  • Attitude/cultural change

Here at ReaCH we understand that research impact happens through the process of knowledge exchange and co-production of knowledge where ideas are developed with individuals and organisations that put ideas into practice.  The general criteria used to assess the impact of research in REF is defined by reach and significance. Reach is defined by the spread or breadth of influence or effect on the relevant constituencies. It is not assessed in purely geographical terms, nor in absolute numbers of beneficiaries, but rather based on the spread and/or breadth to which potential constituencies have been affected. Significance relates to the intensity of influence or effect. Research impact is not only an integral part of the REF but it is also increasingly important in grant applications. In the centre, we recognise that research impact can be generated at any stage in the research lifecycle and beyond. Potential impacts can be generated through a range of diverse pathways and can take many forms promoted through many different methods.

Our approach to impact

While the driving force for impact has initially been the REF and the UK’s research councils (RCUKs) here at the centre we believe that all impact that we create contributes to GCU’s commitment to being recognised as the University for the Common Good. Although we understand the importance of impact in REF as away of assessing the quality of our research and as an income generator through the block grant from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and through RCUK funding we also remain committed to research impact that is not always REF-able but directly related to the Common Good. The centre has an impact beyond academia and our research is making a real difference to the quality of people’s lives nationally and internationally.

The centre is dedicated to the impact of our research beyond academia by engaging with and influencing people, communities and organisations in order to effect, change and benefit policy and practice. GCU research has made and continues to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of societies by focusing on our key research areas of visual health, diabetes, musculoskeletal health, stroke and other long-term conditions to safeguarding health through infection prevention, sexual health and blood-borne viruses, healthy lives and relationships (from substance use and misuse to parenting and families) to healthy ageing. Here at ReaCH we believe that an impact culture is fostered in all areas of our research and across all of our researchers’ career stages. Through the centre's Crucible training programme for early career researchers (ECRs), our ECRS learn key skills to embed impact. The Crucible programme involves an intensive three-day programme that includes seminars on impact, networking, and working with the media, community engagement, patient and public involvement (PPI) to policy and parliamentary engagement. Research impact is intrinsic to the work we do at GCU and, therefore we ensure that it is embedded into all aspects of the research process.

Through our extensive and successful seminar series, our researchers participate in a vibrant research community that stimulates debate. Our research seminar series focuses on subject-specific areas of research (from our various research themes to the publishing process and broader seminars on working with the media and engaging in the parliamentary process).  Impact training remains at the heart of our programme for our early career researchers and within our research group themes. To embed this culture we also run yearly impact events with external training organisations such as Fast Track to Impact with Professor Mark Reed.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The quality of research is peer reviewed periodically by the Research Excellence Framework (REF). REF is an internationally-recognised system for assessing the quality of research in UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The results determine the amount of funding received by each HEI. The most recent results were published in December 2014. Our internationally excellent and world-leading research (3 and 4 stars) is in the top 20 in the UK for allied health disciplines. Building on of REF2014 submission where 100% of our research impact was internationally excellent and world-leading in quality, the centre will draw on key stakeholders, beneficiaries and knowledge users to ensure that our REF2021 submission in relation to impact is supported and enhanced. With REF 2021 now placing a greater emphasis on research impact as weighting has now increased from 20% to 25%, research impact remains a pivotal part of our research strategy.

Beneficiaries and stakeholders

The centre is committed to developing innovative knowledge exchange and impact for a broad range of beneficiaries outside GCU. The centre strategically aims to work with stakeholders to design responsible, sustainable and inclusive research that improves the lived experience. Working with strategic partners NHS Lanarkshire, Glasgow Biomedicine, Canon Medial, Social Work Scotland and the Hampden Sports Clinic as well as through the existing partnerships with other GCU Centres NMAHP-RU and Public Health Scotland the centre provides a platform to inform and respond to new partnership opportunities to extend our reach and significance. Integral to our commitment to GCU’s Common Good the centre is focused on community and public engagement. As part of this, patient and public involvement (PPI) lies at the heart of the centre as we continue to develop new community engagement initiatives that support the co-creation and co-production of research.