Impact evidence

Providing evidence of reseach impact can be a challenge and requires focus, a proportionate approach and building a strong base of professional relationships.

Annex A of the Draft panel criteria and working methods (2018/02) for REF2021 gives many examples of types of impact as well as indicators of reach and significance.

Metric Toolkit is a resource built to help researchers and evaluators navigate the ever-changing research metrics landscape. It includes 27 expert-written, time-saving summaries for the most popular research metrics including the Journal Impact Factor and Altmetric Attention Score. The Metrics Toolkit includes an app that can recommend discipline-specific metrics to satisfy your specific use cases. The Toolkit carries a CC-BY license, so you can reuse its content as you wish!

Links to underpinning research
For REF2014, it was important to evidence the critical links linking ‘underpinning’ research to impact.Consider if specific outputs can be referenced as part of the activities and where. Can testimony be requested to corroborate a link to the research?

Plan for evidence
Consider the change or benefit that is anticipated or sought. What feedback would demonstrate that this happened? Can the activity incorporate the capture of such evidence?

Evidence of main impact claims

  • Focus: Know what you want to achieve; intended outcomes should clarify the types of evidence you need
  • Proportionality: Aim to capture evidence to support key claims of impact, not every detail along the way
  • Timing: Try to show a progression of impact from early stages to demonstrable ‘benefits’
  • Relationships: Be clear about what you might need from collaborators and partners early on, e.g. a testimonial or regular updates
  • HEFCE Guidance on evidence table

The types of evidence you should gather or generate will be specific for each impact, but examples might be:

  • Emails or correspondence from key or pivotal individuals
  • Quantitative data, if available
  • Diversity of the audiences reached
  • Evaluation data
  • User feedback / testimony
  • Reviews and commentary – keep note of the level of public discourse, how wide was the dissemination?
  • Media coverage – retain date-stamped copies of the web pages in case the web links change
  • Secondary reach achieved from media coverage
  • Third party impact or involvement – this could involve retaining delegate lists from conferences or workshops (particularly if policy makers and media attended) and following these up to assess if there was any benefit or change as a result
  • Evidence of sales / downloads / access to web content and increase with time
  • Evidence of sustainability – e.g. ongoing engagement with a group, significant increase in participation over time
  • Statements from opinion leaders

Keep asking the questions: “so what… happened as a result? …came next? … what extent?” and narrating and evidencing the answers.

From the conception of impact ideas to a mature impact story, keep the narrative, specifics, evidence and links to research publications, activities and other impacts current and accessible with the Impact module in Pure.




The Impact module can be used to record the who? what? where? when? of your impact.

Build a case over time by identifying the workflow stage:

  • Planning – early stage
  • Involvement – mid or active stage
  • Change adopted – end stage
  • Public benefited – end stage

Collect the supporting evidence. HEFCE Guidance on evidence table

Link the impact to your publications, funding and activities.

For help, contact the Research Policy Office ([email protected]).