I’m writing this from a rainy Southampton after an impact training with researchers in Swansea yesterday, where I launched the new issue of the free Fast Track Impact Magazine. In the magazine, we announce an exciting new prize, which I hope will inspire you to think more deeply and broadly about the impacts you might be able to achieve. In addition to the magazine, I've been busy with the team at Fast Track Impact building lots of other useful new resources over the last month, which I hope you will enjoy! As ever there's lots of other new research and resources on impact that I think you'll find useful, and a couple of new opportunities to work with me on your impact - read on to find out more...
Announcing the Unsung Impacts Prize
Our cover story is the Unsung Impacts Prize – inspiring stories of research that has changed lives but that no University will ever write a press release about or enter to a research evaluation (like REF in the UK or EIA in Australia). Heartfelt thanks for the openness and courage of all those who submitted entries, and especially to winner Wendy Dossett and our runners up, Esmee Hanna, Ian Marder and Sara MacKian.
The entries showed some of the key reasons why impacts are not being considered for submission to REF2021. For example, they may have too limited reach, they may be impossible to measure or prove, or entirely valid impacts may have been undermined by the fact that the research had been conducted at the wrong university. Unless we find ways of celebrating and inspiring others to pursue unsung impacts, we may see fewer and fewer people pursuing impacts like these. Many of these unsung impacts are not just the right thing to do; they are deeply inspiring and motivational.
Read the article or listen to this week’s podcast episode about the prize.
Also in the magazine…
- Steven Hill has opened the bidding for increasing the weighting of impact in the next REF (post 2021) at, wait for it… 100% impact. Nobody is suggesting that this will happen, but as a thought-piece in a philosophy journal it certainly makes for some thought-provoking reading
- I had the privilege of interviewing Prof Anand Menon who heads up the ESRC UK in a Changing Europe initiative. In a highly contentious and fast-moving political environment, he has gained a reputation for unbiased and authoritative advice, and an ability to withstand the most bullish of questioning. He gives his views on the impact of Brexit on UK research and gives advice to academics on whether or not they should disclose how they voted in the referendum if they want their evidence to be listened to by politicians
- One of my favourite articles in the magazine is about the power of stories to construct a pathway to impact that can inspire change. Most of us are aware of the power of stories to help us communicate our research, whether we’re writing a keynote speech or a blog, or structuring an argument for our next research output. But I think stories can do more than just help us communicate better. By understanding the characteristics of good stories, it is possible to structure pathways that lead to powerful and effective impacts from our research.
Read the full magazine now (it is free), featuring all of this alongside some of our most popular content from the last year. If you want a hard copy, you'll need to come along to a Fast Track Impact training (they are free to all participants). Massive thanks to Anna, Jacqui, Joyce and Madie from the Fast Track Impact team who put in so much effort to produce such a beautiful publication.
Opportunities to work with me
- I’d like to give a selected few newsletter readers free detailed written feedback and a one hour (public) consultation on your #REF2021 case study. If you can get written permission from your University, I want to choose three case studies to feature in my vlog in December. Email me for more info and to pitch your case!
- Booking has opened for two courses which will be open to all researchers and professional services staff (in Aberdeen) next year. I’ll only be running two days like this next year, and both will be capped at 20 people, so book now if you’re interested. Find out more about my impact training for researchers open course (4th September 2020) and the course I’ll be running on motivating researchers and impact culture for professional services staff.
New from The Fast Track Impact Vlog and Podcast
- Presenting with impact (part 2): How to connect with your audience to drive deeper engagement. In this second part of my five part series on presenting with impact, I talk about the importance of knowing your audience (and what to do when you’re put on the spot with no time to research who you’re talking to), and provide three hacks that can enable you to powerfully connect with your audiences to drive deeper engagement with you and your material.
- Presenting with impact (part 3): How to convey passion and authority. In this third part, I consider how you can convey passion for your subject and ensure you come across as authoritative, by ensuring the strength of your evidence-based message is matched by your posture and intonation
- Presenting with impact (part 4): How to simplify your message to make it memorable and powerful. In this penultimate vlog in my series on presenting with impact, I consider different ways of simplifying complex messages to increase their power and make them more memorable for your audience
- Podcast: Generating significant and original research using the poet Keats’ creative process. We’re all familiar with the publish or perish mantra, but for many of us it is less about the number of publications we produce, and more about their quality. The need for rigour goes with saying, but we are all striving for that one significant, original contribution that changes our discipline forever. In this episode, I use the creative process of the poet, John Keats, to explore an unusual approach to pushing research beyond the current cutting edge.
- Podcast: Is your disciplinary label holding you back? How to re-invent your career to find and express your authentic self. How do you introduce yourself to others, and what do the labels you choose say about you? How do these labels influence how others perceive you? In this episode, I explore the many labels we can all choose from when someone asks us “what do you do?”, to show that we all have multiple authentic identities we can project to the world. I then describe three ways of thinking more deeply about these labels, so we can re-invent ourselves in ways that feel more authentic: integrating labels, re-labelling and transcending labels. Labels are important as we discover who we are and learn our trade, but if we allow ourselves to be defined by our labels, we will never grow beyond the expectations created by the labels we identify with. Hold your PhD or job description lightly if you want to be freed from the tyranny of everyone's expectations and the weight of your ego's demands, so you can transcend all the labels to become more authentically you than you ever thought possible.
Other new resources from Fast Track Impact
Other useful research and resources
I hope you've found some of this info useful - let me know if you have any questions. Always nice to hear from people who get this far!
- Read Niki Rust’s Nifty Guide on how researchers can achieve policy impact with their research on Twitter
- More great advice from Niki Rust (another Twitter thread) on engaging with third sector organisations for impact
- A new paper shows how “stakeholders shape knowledge translation processes by continuously putting forth explicit or implicit scenarios about the future”, mobilising the necessary support to realise those future uses and benefits
- 5 tips to help you pitch your research effectively in a public engagement event
- A new way of thinking about coproduction. Fascinating podcast conversation between Tima Bansal and Garima Sharma about their experience generating impact through the Network for Business Sustainability
- Might public engagement make you a better researcher? Isabelle Heyerick has written an article on the reciprocal potential of impact, called Is there an I in Impact? Considering the two-way process of public engagement
- New research shows ECR researchers across Europe see impact as a priority but rarely see success due to lack of training and time. A good place to start is my free online impact training
- ‘I’m not being paid for this conversation’ - this critique of asymmetries in academic-artist collaborations applies every time we expect stakeholders to contribute in-kind rather than be funded for input. What does this say about how we value their work?
- New research by Livia Fritz et al shows researchers and practitioners have different perceptions of how stakeholder participation leads to impact. Researchers are more likely to see participation as a way of raising awareness and learning from stakeholders to get more relevant project outputs implemented. On the other hand, practitioners were more likely to value extending networks and co-operation, and being able to influence other practitioners. However, both saw participation as important for improving the knowledge base upon which decisions could be made. See the diagrams of the mental models of researchers versus stakeholders here
- 14th November: Virtual film premiere and live discussion, "How do we make research useful for practice?". Register here
- 8 reasons why you need to get round to making your personal website by Jennifer van Alstyne (aka. The Academic Designer). Don’t forget Fast Track Impact can help you design a website to generate impact from your research – find out more
- New report by RAND Europe scopes the landscape of future research assessment, considering the future of research assessment post REF 2021. It includes the results of a survey of more than 3,700 researchers. Findings include mixed views on whether importance of impact in research assessment should increase or decrease, and journal articles and conference contributions are expected to remain main form of output in many disciplines
- New opinion piece by Julie Bayley and David Phipps proposes five indicators of a healthy impact culture: 1. Commitment; 2. Connectivity; 3. Coproduction; 4. Competencies; and 5. Clarity.
Research England & N8 funded Chair of Socio-Technical Innovation
School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University
N8 Agri-Food, Institute for Agri-Food Research & Innovation and Centre for Rural Economy
Working across the N8 Universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York
Visiting Professor at University of Leeds and Birmingham City University
Research Lead for International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s UK Peatland Programme
Fast Track Impact: get more impact, get your time back, get inspired
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