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The nature, scale and beneficiaries of research impact

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This report is based on an analysis of the 6,679 non-redacted impact case studies that were submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The case studies outline changes and benefits to the economy, society, culture, public policy and services, health, the environment and quality of life. Using a mix of text-mining approaches and qualitative analysis, the nature, scale and beneficiaries of the non-academic impact of research is described. 

Findings include:

  • The societal impact of research from UK higher education institutions is considerable, diverse and fascinating.
  • The research underpinning societal impacts is multidisciplinary, and the social benefit arising from research is multi-impactful.
  • Different types of higher education institutions specialise in different types of impact.
  • UK higher education institutions have a global impact.
  • The quantitative evidence supporting claims for impact was diverse and inconsistent, suggesting that the development of robust impact metrics is unlikely.
  • The impact case studies provide a rich resource for analysis, but the information is collected for assessment purposes and may need to be aligned for analysis purposes.

The non-academic impact of international development research in UK Higher Education

Following the publication of the above report, a further report was commissioned by the UK Collaborative for Development Sciences on the non-academic impact of international development research conducted at UK universities. This report analysed 287 impact case studies either directly relevant to international development or the UK Department for International Development.

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