Professor Richard Holliman, The Open University.
“Evidencing impact is hard. Doing public engagement is hard.”
How many times have I heard versions over these phrases over recent years? “Too many”, came the weary reply.
It’s an obvious thing to say, but anything is likely to be a challenge to do well for the first time if you don’t plan ahead. Given that this seems so obvious, what’s surprised me is how often I’ve heard versions of these negative takes on the impact and public engagement agenda in recent months.
I’ve attended a range of events in association with preparations for REF 2021. I’ve heard these types of statements there.
I’ve been working with funders to explore how grants are planned for, assessed, monitored and reported. I’ve heard statements like these made by an unhealthy proportion of researchers during the course of this work.
And I’ve reviewed a good number of proposals over recent months that seek to generate and evidence impact. Guess what? Yes, you’re right. These arguments surface in discussions with some (not all) of these researchers.
Did I mention that it is eight years (yes, eight years!) since pathways to impact planning was introduced by RCUK? It is four years since REF 2014. It is three years since the completion of the RCUK-funded Public Engagement with Research Catalysts (Duncan and Manners, 2016).
So why are we still having the same arguments about the need to produce high-quality planning for the generation and evidencing of research impact?