Measuring the impact of research

audience at lecture

How can research achieve impact? How can we measure it? These questions were the topic of a packed public lecture at the University of Sydney with expert on impact measurement and public health, Professor Trisha Greenhalgh.

The lecture, on 19 March, was jointly hosted by the CDPC, the Sax Institute, the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre and the Partnership Centre for Health System Sustainability.

In her address Professor Greenhalgh warned that short term impacts are easier to capture but can also lead to short term thinking.

An over-emphasis on many commonly used impact metrics, she pointed out, can “paradoxically encourage short-term thinking that camouflages the real value of research”.

“Impact metrics alone can drive us down a problematic path,” she said.

It is important, therefore, to define research impact to drive different activities, have well-constructed dissemination plans and not lose sight of your institution’s moral purpose and focus.

According to Professor Greenhalgh it’s beneficial to ask: What kind of impact resonates with your mission? Are you interested in academic impact, societal impact, short-term, long-term, local or global impact?

Professor Anne Kelso, the CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), also addressed the lecture about how the NHMRC is planning to examine research impact.

"Impact may be indirect, difficult to attribute and invariably takes time. It's a very big challenge and we need a flexible framework.
“It’s important to tell the community and government about the outcome of publicly funded research,” she said.

Professor Ann Kelso said both research measurement and communication are critical.

Q&A story with Professor Greenhalgh
Professor Greenhalgh’s twitter handle: @trishgreenhalgh
Sax Institute story on the event here
University of Sydney webpage, Research Impact: What is research impact?