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Measuring the impact of research

29 August 2019
New approach needed, says leading academic
With universities under increasing pressure to justify research dollars, a senior academic at the University of Sydney Business School has proposed a system for measuring the impact of research on the Australian community.

In a five-step approach, Professor Vincent Mitchell, who heads the School's Discipline of Marketing, proposes that academics systematically measure research inputs, processes, outputs, outcomes and impact.

"Inputs are resources such as money, time, data, people and research knowledge while processes translate inputs into outputs such as events, workshops, executive education, webinars and media engagement activities," explained Professor Mitchell.

"Outputs result from processes and are measures of how the research knowledge was conveyed to end-users, like non-academic citations, direct policy advice to government, website activity, downloads and media mentions."

"Outcomes are the final effect of outputs, i.e. the benefit the end user gained such as changing government policy, better firm performance, jobs created, time or money saved,” he said.

In a video commentary on impact, Professor Mitchell gives an example of impact in relation to research into eyesight. "An outcome of a new method for testing people's sight might be to improve 100 people's sight this year," he said.

"The impact over 10 years maybe decreased number of accidents, improved workforce participation and better quality of life for those 100 individuals."

Professor Mitchell says that "impact" as the total collection of outcomes - negative/positive, direct/indirect and intended/unintended over a long period of time - can be measured against an established index.

Professor Mitchell has presented his proposal in a video called "How to measure management research impact." Watch the video on Vimeo here.

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Professor Vincent Mitchell
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