Frequently Asked Questions

The following are questions we are frequently asked about research impact, from planning to impact to articulating impact in the form of case studies. If you have a question that is not addressed here then please do contact us on
  • What is research impact?
    Impact is the benefit that research can bring to society and the economy; in other words, the difference your research is making outside of academia. For example, your research on sustainable construction materials may result in a new product being developed that is taken forward by a start-up company (creating jobs/ adding value into the economy); commercial construction companies may go on and use that product, which in turn reduces CO2 emissions and increases their sales.
  • What is a pathway to impact?
    The pathway to impact is about the how. How you will go about making sure your research achieves the impact it merits? Many grant applications have a pathway to impact section, where you will have to describe the activities you plan to undertake to achieve impact.

    The "how" may include knowledge exchange and public engagement activities.

    Knowledge Exchange (KE) is a process that brings together academic staff, users of research and wider groups and communities to exchange ideas, evidence and expertise. KE activities can help you to increase the impact of your research.

    Public engagement encompasses a wide array of activities that share the benefits of higher education and research with the public. This engagement is usually “a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.” (University of Bath, PEU). Like Knowledge exchange it is the process, the how you can achieve impact. It helps to raise awareness of your research with different groups, such as business, clinicians, or policymakers and can be a great pathway to impact.
  • What is the difference between the pathway to impact and impact?
    Impact is the end goal – the ultimate differences that your research might make to different groups of people, communities or regions, society, or the economy. Your pathway to impact is how you can achieve that goal.
  • Why do I need to plan for impact?
    Planning for impact as part of your research is important because it helps you to:

    1. identify who you could be working with to enhance your research (for example to gain access to data, equipment)
    2. access funding that is available to do dissemination and engagement activities (which you may be trying to currently do on a shoe-string)
    3. promote your research
    4. comply with the funders requirements for the Impact Summary and Pathways to Impact plans (UK Research Councils and the European Commission)
    5. report on your outcomes, which is required by Research Councils as a condition of the funding
    6. report on any impacts achieved.

    Ask yourself - Can I afford not to plan for impact?
    1. A similarly excellent research proposal could be funded over yours because the Pathways to Impact plan is better.
    2. You may be asked to rewrite you impact plan post peer review by the funder, however it is then too late to request any resources to support this section.
    3. You do not achieve the impact from your research that you hope to!

    The planning for impact toolkit is designed to help you plan for impact. Working through it will help you to write your Impact Summary and Pathways to Impact plan.

    Things to note:
    • Money is available for activities, however it is important that you justify the costs.
    • It’s not all down to you. You can cost in expert help i.e. project support, admin support, event organisers, people with expertise in evaluation, knowledge exchange or public engagement.
    • You are not expected to achieve impact within your project but you are expected to take steps along the pathway to achieving impact.
    • You need to capture the results of your activities throughout your project and this will help you report on outcomes and future impacts.
    • You may already be doing some of the activities that could be incorporated into your plan.
    • As with your research project, your Pathways to Impact may need to change during your project. This should be possible as long as you can justify any changes.

    What the Research Councils (RCUK) say....
    The Research Councils do not expect applicants to be able to predict the impact of their research. The purpose of Pathways to Impact is to encourage applicants to explore, from the outset, who could potentially benefit from their work in the longer term, and consider what could be done to increase the chances of their research reaching those beneficiaries.

    The primary criterion for funding from the Research Councils remains excellent research. Beyond that there are a number of other considerations taken into account, of which Pathways to Impact are one. This means that when you have two equally excellent proposals, a good Pathways to Impact could make a difference to the funding process.
  • What do I need to consider? Any top-tips?
    Top-tips for Impact

    • Engage and Involve your key stakeholders in your research from the outset (develop and maintain effective working relationships)
    • Clarify the purpose of the research, setting clear goals for impact (case for support, impact summaries)
    • Understand the current evidence base, how the research will contribute to this and lead to the desired impacts (pathways to impact, theory of change)
    • Plan your impact related activities early in the research cycle with your key stakeholders
    • Collect evidence of impact and learning throughout and beyond the research project and record this on PURE
  • How much money do I need to allocate to Impact?
    A common question is how much of the research grants budget should be allocated to impact. This very much depends on your pathway to achieving impact, however UK Research Innovation recommend that you allocate approximately 10% of the total value towards impact. This reflects similar recommendations made to allocating funds to any monitoring and evaluation plan within a project (World Health Organisation, Big Lottery Fund).
  • Who at the University can help me?
    There are a number of resources, support and tools are available to help you with identifying, planning for and evidencing the impact of your research for more information read this guide
  • I want to find our more about the Research Excellence Framework. Where do I do to find out?
    Research England have a comprehensive website with everything you need to know about the research excellence framework (REF), this includes guidance on submission, panel criteria and answers to your frequently asked questions. To access visit:
  • My question has not been addressed, where can I go for help?
    If you have any outstanding questions, you can download our FAQ factsheet or contact us on