Pathways to impact

The Research Council UK is encouraging researchers to explore from the outset who could benefit from their research in the longer term and to consider what can be done to enable this. As part of grant applications to RCUK, applicants are asked to prepare a pathways to impact document. RCUK stress that the document is not expected to be an accurate prediction of future benefits.

In the section Impact Summary, applicants are asked to explore:

  • who might benefit from your research?
  • how they might benefit?

In the section Pathways to Impact, applicants are asked to explore

  • what will be done to ensure that potential beneficiaries have the opportunity to benefit?

**Researchers are encouraged to start an Impact entry in Pure based on their Pathways to Impact statement on award of funding**

10 tips for completing the impact element of the application form:

  1. Draft the Impact Summary early in your preparation, to inform your research design.
  2. Structure your Pathways to Impact: provide information using clear headings and timescales which demonstrate the pathways towards generating potential economic and societal impacts from your research, further information can be found on individual research Council webpages (http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/innovation/impacts/).
  3. Provide a short description of the beneficiaries and potential impacts, which could be used in the public domain. Pathways to Impact should set out what the applicant(s) will do to realise the potential impacts.
  4. Ask a colleague within your department or a member of the RBDC team to comment on or help you prepare your Pathways to Impact.
  5. Most proposals aim to engage with beneficiaries and end users. Where possible, and for impact activities to be more effective, end users should be involved from the outset of the research design process to maximise the potential up-take and application of the research.
  6. Involve beneficiaries with the development of the application and Pathways to Impact if proposals include formal collaborations and partnerships with them. Include a description of how the collaborators/participates will contribute to achieving the proposed impacts.
  7. Many research proposals include events and workshops within their Pathways to Impact. It is essential to involve beneficiaries and users in events and workshops to get the best out of the workshop and to potentially facilitate the application of the research.
  8. Inputs to policy tend to be referred to in terms of interactions with policymakers through workshops. For more routes to influencing policy, liaise directly with the Research Council concerned to identify other knowledge exchange mechanisms i.e. policy fellowships, public policy seminars, literature targeted at policy communities.
  9. Public outreach is a popular form of impact activity. For such activities to be as effective as possible, try to think of your research in the context of two-way engagement not just outreach.
  10. Remember to consider and include project specific costs relating to proposed impact activities e.g. engagement workshops or marketing materials, publication costs, etc.

10 common elements of pathways to impact statements that led to the most significant and far-reaching impact (Fast Track Impact post)

  1. Clear connectivity from overall vision to objectives and impact
    A strong narrative connecting the overall research vision and purpose to the impact objectives and outputs.
  2. Specificity
    The ‘who’ – Identifying specific audiences.
    The ‘how’ – how will you impact these groups?
    The ‘when’ – plan your impact in clear, logical phases.
  3. Tailor-made impact
    Take the time to identify and understand your audiences to get creative and tailor-make your impact.
  4. Build in flexibility
  5. Assign responsibility – name names
  6. Demonstrate demand
  7. Highlight collaborative partnerships
  8. Don’t ignore sensitivities
    Mention ethics protocols that will be followed and organisations you will work with to ensure you communicate sensitively with vulnerable groups.
  9. Think long-term
    What will the legacy be?
  10. Record everything
    Capturing impacts throughout the lifetime of the study.

For more information, please go to the RCUK Pathways to Impact website.
EPSRC innovative examples of Pathways to Impact

For individual advice on writing your Pathways to Impact statements, contact Research Business Development and Contracts (RBDC).