Engagement and Impact

Part of RUN resource guide


The first stage of planning for impact is to think about the type of impact your research will, or potentially may have.


diagram showing types of research impact

Source: Withyman C. (2018) Planning for Impact: Researcher Toolkit, Research Divsion, CQUniversity Australia.


There are many types of research impacts and research may have impact across a number of different areas.

Academic Impact

Academic impact has been discussed in the sections above. It is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to academic advances. It includes such things as advances in understanding, methods, theory and application.

Cultural Impact

Cultural impact is when research contributes to the understanding of ideas, reality, values and beliefs. It is changes in the prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, discourse and patterns of behaviour, whether explicit (e.g. codified in rules or law) or implicit (e.g. rules of thumb or accepted practices) in organisations, social groups or society that deliver benefits to the members of those groups or those they interact with.

Economic Impact

Economic impact can be defined as monetary benefits arising from research, either in terms of money saved, costs avoided or increases in turnover, profit, funding or benefits to groups of people or the environment measured in monetary terms.

Wellbeing impact

Impact in this area is when research that lead to better outcomes for the health of individuals, social groups or public health. This can include saving lives and improving people’s quality of life, and wider benefits for the wellbeing of individuals or social groups. It includes both physical and social aspects such as emotional, psychological, economic wellbeing and measures of life satisfaction.

Policy impact

These impacts contribute to how policy makers act and how policies are developed. Recipients of this impact may include government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charities and public sector organisations and society, either as a whole or groups of individuals in society.


4 models of research-policy relations

Source: Boswell and Smith (2017) Rethinking policy ‘impact’: four models of research-policy relations. Nature https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-017-0042-z

Crucial to this definition is the fact that you are assessing the extent that your research made a contribution, recognising that it is likely to be one of many factors that have influenced policy. It also goes beyond simply influencing policy, to enabling those policies to deliver public benefits.

Boswell and Smith[1] in their article in Nature argue that we also need to be mindful that policy and political impact from research is not a linear one way interaction, but that policy and politics can also impact research, research and policy are mutually constitutive and that sometimes there is no direct causal relationship between research and policy.

Environmental impact

These impacts make a contribution to the management of the environment, such as natural resources, environmental pollution, climate and meteorology. The key beneficiaries are the natural and built environment with its ecosystem services, together with societies, individuals or groups of individuals[2].

Social Impact

These are impacts where the beneficiaries include individuals of groups or individuals; communities or organisations; whose quality of life, practices or activities have been influenced by your research. Public debate and the awareness, attitudes, education and understanding of the public have been enhanced by engaging them with research activities or informed by research. Research may have contributed to community development and regeneration7.

Training impact

Research that leads to new or enhanced capacity (human resources or social capital and connectivity) through the development or improvement of training, curricula, pedagogical tools and qualifications that created benefits, to individuals, groups or organisations.

[1] Boswell and Smith (2017) Rethinking policy ‘impact’: four models of research-policy relations. Nature https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-017-0042-z

[2] UCD Impact planning guide: http://www.ucd.ie/research/portal/impact/supportsresources/