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Pathways to Impact

Each year the UK Research Councils invest around £3Bn in research and research training in the UK covering the full spectrum of academic disciplines, which has a huge impact on the wellbeing and economy of the UK. It is crucial that the Research Councils demonstrate the economic, societal and cultural impact of the research it funds to show value for public funding.

In this context, there is now a greater need to involve researchers more directly in demonstrating the impact of their research. To enable this to happen, researchers need to be actively involved in thinking about demonstrating the value of their research and its wider impacts from its inception to completion – and ideally beyond if we are to capture and demonstrate the longer-term impact of activities.

Impact policy

Our policy on maximising the impact of research:

Impact policy (PDF 164KB)

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What to include in the Pathways to Impact statement

The Pathways to Impact assessment statement, together with the Impact Summary, outlines the wider benefits of the research to the public sector, commercial private sector, third sector and/or the wider public.

Plans for engaging with academic audiences may be included but only where these form part of the critical pathway towards economic and societal impact. This pathway must be clearly articulated.

The Pathways to Impact statement should:

  • be project specific and have very clear deliverables
  • describe societal and economic deliverables and milestones instead of focussing on just scientific deliverables
  • plan to deliver activities pertinent to the project instead of a focus on track record or routine activities for university post
  • consider broader beneficiaries, likely impact on them and appropriate mechanisms for realising these potential impacts
  • be focussed on knowledge exchange and impact generation rather than narrowly focused, end focused or purely for dissemination purposes
  • be clearly laid out in terms of timelines when each impact activity will be carried out

Further information is available from the RCUK website: www.rcuk.ac.uk/innovation/impacts/

Assessment of Pathways to Impact

As part of the application assessment process Research Committee members assign a score to the Pathways to Impact statement of excellent, satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

This score is based on the referees' scores and comments, and the Principal Investigator response, and uses the following definitions:

Definitions of the three possible scores of the Pathways to Impact statement

Score Definition Notes
Excellent
  • The key areas where impact should be explored by the researchers during the course of the grant have been clearly identified
  • Clear, realistic and appropriate objectives are given
  • Proposed activities are appropriate to the research, use both routine and novel ways of engaging end-users and are likely to generate very significant potential for impact
  • Management of these activities has been well thought out
  • The ability to achieve the objectives is clearly evident

When associated with a grant obtaining a high score against the standard assessment criteria, this PtI score will reinforce that assessment and give the application an advantage over similarly scored proposals without an E rating.

Funded applications will be announced with the Pathways to Impact statement unchanged.

Satisfactory
  • At least the main areas where impact should be explored by the researchers during the course of the grant have been identified
  • The objectives given are mostly clear, realistic and appropriate, and any uncertainties are unlikely to significantly affect the potential for impact
  • Proposed activities are mostly appropriate to the research, will productively engage end-users, and are likely to generate adequate potential for impact
  • Management of these activities is generally well thought out, and any uncertainties are unlikely to significantly affect the potential for impact
  • The ability to achieve the majority objectives is evident and any uncertainties are unlikely to significantly affect the potential for impact

This PtI score is unlikely to have any positive influence on the overall score of an application, and in the case of a competitive proposal may disadvantage it in competition with proposals of similar merit with an E score.

Funded applications will be announced with the Pathways to Impact statement as presented, but feedback may be given on how it could be improved.

Unsatisfactory
  • Areas to be explored by the researchers during the project are not identified or not appropriate
  • Objectives are unclear, unrealistic, inappropriate or missing.
  • Proposed activities are inappropriate for the research, limited or routine in scope or very unlikely to generate significant impact
  • Management of these activities is unclear, inappropriate or missing
  • The ability to achieve the objectives has not been demonstrated

This PtI score could influence the overall score of a proposal if it was seen as indicating a poor understanding of the potential impacts of the work that might damage its outcomes. It would be a negative factor when rank ordering the proposal with others.

Funded applications will not be announced until an acceptable revised PtI has been received.