Future of Impact in UKRI applications

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You may be aware that  that applicants to UK Research and Innovation – including the Research Councils – will no longer be required to provide a ‘Pathways to Impact’ statement or complete an ‘Impact Summary’ in grant applications from 1 March 2020. What does this signal?

We do know that the research impact agenda is still very important. We must continue to communicate the impact of our findings, for example, so that our knowledge can be used for the benefit of the public. We must also continue to update Researchfish: the submission window to do so has just opened and will close at 4pm on 12th March 2020.

I have asked Katy Mcken, Head of Research Information and Impact, to share her thoughts and insights on these changes as a guest on this blog.



Thoughts from Head of Research Information and Impact Katy McKen

Last week, UKRI made a package of announcements, which included changes to the impact sections in grant applications. From 1 March 2020, applicants to UK Research and Innovation – including the Research Councils – will no longer be required to provide a ‘Pathways to Impact’ plan or complete an ‘Impact Summary’ within grant applications. Further details on these changes will be reflected in individual call guidance.

This change took the sector by surprise because the changes had not been widely trailed.

So does this mean the end of impact in grant applications? No, UKRI are clear that removal of the pathways to impact section does not mean that the councils no longer wish to see impact reflected in grant applications. Rather, they expect that impact activities should be included in the case for support and will issue more guidance on this as calls are announced.

We also don’t believe that this move signals an end of the broader research impact agenda. Recent government policy announcements would seem to indicate that impact is still very much at the heart of their science policy. On the same day as the UKRI announcement, science minister Chris Skidmore made the following statement:

“our future lies in those cutting-edge ideas, advanced technologies and rewarding new jobs that will power our economy and transform our society”

Don’t forget, Impact makes up 25% of REF 2021, up from 20% in 2014. And 2020 will see the first iteration of the new Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) which looks at how Universities embed Knowledge Exchange activities to enable a wide variety of impacts. The removal of the Pathways to Impact section appears to be an administrative change to reduce the burden on academics when applying for research funds; it does not signal a policy shift.

Impact also remains an important strand in the University’s research strategy, reflected in our mission:

“Our mission is to deliver world-class research and teaching, educating our students to become future leaders and innovators, and benefiting the wider population through our research, enterprise and influence”

RIS will continue to support researchers in planning for, delivering, evaluating and evidencing impact.  The Research Development Managers and the Impact Managers are happy to advise on how impact related activities should be reflected in research council applications under the new requirements.

Oh, and that same day also saw an announcement of a very significant increase in funding (more than double) for the Mathematical Sciences which showcased the impact of the work of our colleagues with the Met Office to improve severe weather event forecasts.

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