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Engagement & Impact

Engagement and Impact

What is engagement and impact?

Key elements:

  • Engagement activity occurs external to academia
  • Mutually beneficial exchange


Research engagement is the interaction between researchers and research end-users outside of academia, for the mutually beneficial transfer of knowledge, technologies, methods or resources.
Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE)

Engagement describes the interaction between researchers and research organisations and their larger communities/industries for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge, understanding and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

Key elements:

  • Impact occurs outside of academia

  • Impact might arise directly or indirectly from the research

  • Impact made could be economical , environmental, legal, technological, political, societal


Research impact is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.

Professor Mark Reed

Research impact is the good that researchers can do in the world. It consists of the non-academic benefits that arise, whether directly or indirectly, from research.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Impact is defined as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.

Can be discipline specific, e.g. health and medical research (‘An approach to measuring and encouraging research translation and research impact’)

…the demonstrable effect from the flows of knowledge between basic, patient and population-orientated research, and clinical trials, that improves human health and quality of life, and generates benefits for the economy, society, culture, national security, public policy, or the environment

(Research end user)
A research end-user is an individual, community or organisation external to academia that will directly use or directly benefit from the output, outcome or result of the research.

Why is research engagement and impact important?

Research engagement and impact gives researchers the opportunity to learn new skills, build new relationships which can lead to new opportunities, and can build researcher confidence, profile and reputation.

Accountability and Return on Investment

The traditional definition of academic impact focuses on contributions to field/s of study through publications, citation counts or grants won. There is a shift in focus from quantity to quality which stems from a tight fiscal government environment and public accountability pressures, to demonstrate impact in terms of environmental, economic and social impact.


If quantifiable, then research can be more easily communicated and lead to:

  • Greater demand for access to research outputs (Open Access)
    • Increased citation rates
  • Connection to the general public through clearer communication of research outcomes
    • Public support for research
  • Improved accessibility for collaboration across academia, government, industry and communities globally
  • Attract researchers and research funding globally
  • Attract both UG and PG students
  • May be tied to future funding
Cultural change
  • Change in thinking to focus on the research engagement activities and its intended or indirect impact, throughout all stages of research

History of EI

This is a different concept to the traditional / old view of research impact based on quantitative measures such as citations (e.g. h index described as a means of “quantifying the impact and productivity of a scientist”). These types of metrics are still often viewed as a researchers’ “impact track record” and might more clearly be described as academic impact.


First REF undertaken in UK to assess quality of research (next will be 2021)


Australian Government announced development of Engagement and Impact (EI) assessment 


Pilot for EI 2018 undertaken (voluntary participation)


EI 2018 undertaken as parallel exercise to ERA – submissions due July 2018


National report of EI 2018 released


EI 2024 – information coming soon