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The Creative Role of Research


The creative role of research is a report from King’s College London that draws on the data from the last Research Excellence Framework (REF) to interrogate the longstanding ways in which academics and creative practitioners have forged relationships, collaborated, borrowed from and influenced one another

The report illuminates for artists and creative professionals the manifold ways in which academic research can inform and develop their practice and, at the same time, inspires researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines to foster new opportunities for collaboration beyond the university walls.


REF is a national assessment exercise that measures the quality of research undertaken across all UK universities. In 2014 this included, for the very first time, an enquiry into the impact of academic research beyond Higher Education in the form of brief narrative case studies. Impact was defined by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) 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’. The two key criteria highlighted by HEFCE for the assessment of impact were reach and significance. Though the definitions of these terms differed between each academic panel tasked with scoring research impact, they broadly focus on the scale and diversity of beneficiaries, and the ways in which academic research has made a difference for an individual or community, policy or practice.

A total of 6,975 impact case studies were submitted to the REF exercise, most of which are now available in the public domain in a searchable online database. This database provides a rich source of information about the ways in which researchers have engaged with projects and programmes in the creative and cultural sector, many of which had their genesis long before impact was incorporated into research assessment practices.

This report seeks to understand the relationship between all fields of research and their impact within the creative and cultural sector. Based on an analysis of 1,582 impact case studies from the above database that were identified in this study as being germane to the sector, the report illuminates the different types of impact described, discusses the activities and partnerships that gave rise to those impacts, and offers an account of the forms of evidence used to support the impact claims. It does not, however, seek to make judgements about the quality of the REF impact projects described, nor does it contain guidance on writing impact case studies. Rather its goal is to better understand the longstanding ways in which academics and creative practitioners have forged relationships, collaborated, borrowed from and influenced one another.

Read and download the report here:

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