What is ‘research impact’? Why is this concept important? Why should you care? A lot of people think that ‘impact’ is just to do with the research publications they produce in peer reviewed journals – how many? Which journals? – and the numbers of people that read and cite these articles.
It’s important to take a step back and think about the true impact of your research, because this matters outside of the immediate circle of colleagues and fellow academics who will read and cite your work. What is your true reach within the community? Have you considered that the source of the funding for your research might be your national government and therefore your research needs to have a profile and make an impact to taxpayers, to the people outside of your research community who contributed by supporting your project?
Our workshops and training courses can help you to maximise the reach and impact of your research by teaching both messaging methods and the development of strategies to ‘brand yourself’ as a researcher. It’s crucial to develop a social media presence around your research area and group so that others can search and find out about you and your contributions quickly and easily. Be professional: there are a number of free sites that can help you to clean up your social media presence as well. Think about having the chance to give a talk, or a poster at a research conference: colleagues in the audience, or chatting to you in front of your poster will want to find out more and so will search for you online. First impressions matter and are usually formed very quickly when meeting someone, or, crucially, when viewing information online.
Strategies around media and public engagement once your research has been written up (and you know it will soon appear in published form) are also very important to develop. Don’t wait (like I used to do) until a paper has come out and media are trying to get in touch with you to talk about the work; you need to reach out beforehand to ensure that you get maximum coverage for your work. How can this be done? You need a clear plan, developed with your university press office perhaps. Write a short press release, put together a pack that your institution can distribute to their contacts before your paper appears; this might include videos, diagrams, illustrations, short descriptions of why your research is important and interesting, as well as the paper itself. Most people, of course, especially outside of your own research community will not be so interested in actually reading your research paper, but will want to know, in bite-sized sentences, why the work is important and interesting for them.
To actively engage with people at this stage and maximise your impact you need to know, beforehand, what the main message of your study is. What is the single message of your work that you want readers to ‘take home’? One good way to do this effectively is to think about explaining your research to someone who has no idea about what you’ve been working on; a relative, perhaps, or a friend who works in a completely different field. It’s especially important to do this if your research has been funded by a national government research council, for example; taxpayers have a right to understand what their money is being spent on.
This is just one of the reasons why formulating approaches to explaining and describing your work to everyone is a critical career skill, and one Charlesworth Knowledge can help you to further develop . Get in touch with our team to learn how we can help you to maximise the impact of your research.