Following UKRI’s removal of ‘pathways to impact’ from funding bids last year, many were left wondering where impact should go now. The Association of Research Managers & Administrators (ARMA) ran a workshop in October to discuss this further.
I was fortunate to be able to attend after applying for funding from the training bursary strand of the University’s Impact Fund. The application process was very easy (just a short form) and the turnaround was really quick - I was informed of the decision the day after I applied.
The interactive workshop was a blend of Q&A, break out group discussions and presentations, which included a guest speaker from NERC to provide a funder’s perspective. It was a great opportunity to engage with colleagues who supported research in other institutions, discuss the challenges faced and share good practice.
The main concern raised about the removal of ‘pathways to impact’ was the risk that impact might be overlooked in applications. However, several advantages were also discussed. Impact is no longer limited to one section – it is now integral to the whole application. This provides an opportunity to think differently about impact and discuss this alongside research. From a funder’s perspective, a well-written proposal that clearly explains how the research will lead to impact (on the economy or society, for example) is much more likely to be funded than a bid where impact is not clearly mentioned.
The main takeaway points for me were:
• Review the call criteria carefully – is impact specifically mentioned, or just inferred?
• Look out for specific terminology in the call, which signals that impact is important – for example: engagement, stakeholders, national/international importance, regional significance, dissemination, sustainability, value for money and partnerships.
• Funders have different missions, values and priorities. What is the background to the call? Consider why the funder has chosen to fund this area – is the call part of a broader plan?
• Impact must now be imbedded throughout the application and discussed alongside the research – what will your research change? What problems are you intending to solve? Who or what will benefit?
• Impact should be a main focus of the case for support, but also included in other sections - impact and public engagement should inform the planned activities and be included in the justification of resources.
• Highlight impact clearly and signpost to the criteria – make it easy for the assessors to see how your application meets the call criteria.
• Ensure the proposal is well written, clear and easy to follow - use formatting and headings to help structure your proposal.
• Finally, impact is multifaceted, there is no ‘one size fits all’ – be guided by the criteria.
The workshop was really informative and provided useful advice and tools that will inform my work going forward. It also linked in well with the University Strategy’s aims to grow our research strength and drive high research impact. Without the Impact Fund, I could not have attended the workshop. Don’t let a lack of funding be a barrier to your development – apply to the Impact Fund instead.
Faculty Executive Coordinator, Engineering & Design.