Impact is defined as the demonstrable contribution that research makes to society and the economy, of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations.
Generating impact from research is highly context dependent, takes time, involves serendipity, and, often, comprises a series of small incremental changes carried out collaboratively.
However, ‘impact’ is the term for the outcome not the process itself. This is better described as knowledge mobilisation. Knowledge mobilisation is about sharing knowledge between different communities to catalyse change. It is made up of processes and activities like engagement, dissemination, co-design and commercialisation.
- Gain an understanding of impact through our e-learning course Introduction to impact through the lens of NIHR. This will provide an introduction to what impact is, what it isn’t and why it’s important to NIHR.
- Learn more about ‘knowledge mobilisation’ via our Introduction to knowledge mobilisation webinar for researchers.
- There are a number of different approaches to knowledge mobilisation, some of which may be more effective than others for your research. Read our summary of Cochrane and systematic reviews on the effectiveness of different knowledge mobilisation methods
We've identified the five most common mistakes made by researchers in the dissemination and engagement plans for their applications for NIHR funding. Read about how to counter the five most common mistakes in dissemination and engagement plans.
Engaging with research users
Generating meaningful research impact requires engaging with the people who are likely to use the research. This engagement is usually through conversations from the very beginning of the research project, even before the design stage.
We encourage all applicants for NIHR funding to prospectively (and realistically) consider how to engage with and involve research users at every stage of the research process, considering how users might benefit from the research.
As well as patients, carers and members of the public, research users may include commissioners, voluntary sector professionals, managers, clinicians of various backgrounds and anyone else who is crucial if the intended change is to happen within practice, policymaking, third sector or private sector organisations.
- Researchers define evidence as research, while commissioners have a much broader definition of ‘evidence’. Read our advice on how researchers can influence commissioners and policy makers to get research into practice.
Planning your pathway to impact
Engaging with research users and identifying potential impacts from the outset will help you to plan processes by which your research may directly or indirectly catalyse change. Planning includes considering the kinds of impact you are hoping to achieve; that is, what might change, for whom, to what extent, and when.
Researchers who apply for funding from NIHR research programmes are expected to include an engagement and impact plan in their application. This plan should outline how you will engage with research users to deliver impact from your research.
NIHR-funded researchers are also expected to report the outputs, outcomes and the impacts of their research to the NIHR through Researchfish.
Have a look at our examples of high quality engagement and impact plans from recently funded NIHR research applications:
- Making positive moves - NIHR Research for Patient Benefit
- Shared decision-making for high risk surgery - NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research