If you are in academia, you probably want your research to generate positive impressions and have an influence on other researchers and possibly on the world.
Having an impact is also crucial for receiving grants, increasing credibility or other academic merits.
This article is inspired by Margaret Adolphus’s fantastic and in-depth work. It aspires to summarize her main points and inspire young researchers to keep some issues in mind while embarking upon challenging journeys in the academic world.
Adolphus says, “impact is like a coin and has two faces. One looks to the world outside academe; at social and economic impact. The other looks at the narrower, but no less important, impact on scholarship.” So, let us have a closer look!
Academic impact and its measurement
There is no established definition of how to measure the social and economic impact of research yet. However, it is relatively easier to measure scholarly impact. The two most widely used measures for determining academic impact are:
· Published output (quantity and quality).
· The number of times your research is cited in other scholarly works.
Issues with academic measurement
Adolphus criticizes and points out some problems with measuring academic impact. New scholars are often advised to strive publishing in journals with a high citation impact. This advice might lead them to shape their research with the targeted journal’s or its editors’ general interests.
Alternatively, they might avoid more specialized journals for the sake of being published in a more well-known journal. This hinders the relevant field and journal from the research that might have more impact.
Another criticism is that looking at the number of a scholar’s publications might distort both publishing and research.
As a result, to quote Adolphus, “the existing system encourages researchers to be conservative, to ask the same questions using the same methodology, to avoid being innovative, take risks, branch out into new areas, and engage in dialogue with other disciplines.” This situation leads to repetition and missing opportunities for conducting inter or multidisciplinary work.
Other measures of impact
Some academics suggest that measures of impact should be revised with the developing technologies thanks to the widely available online databases. For instance, many argue that the number of times an article is downloaded should also be considered a valid measure.
Emerald Publishing developed a framework for evaluating research impact on non-academic fields. These can be summarized as follows
· Knowledge: Research should contribute to the existing body of knowledge.
· Practice: Industry, business leaders; practitioners and consultants should be affected by the outcomes of research.
· Teaching: The impact research has on education can be assessed with its aid to learning in classrooms.
· Public policy: The research should shape policy and practice.
· Society: The research results should have an impact on cultural norms and accepted ways of thinking. (In the solar energy field, for instance, this could be a research that changes the way people think about solar energy and convinces them even more soundly to giving up unsustainable practices.)
However, it is hard to determine how these non-academic impacts can be measured. After all, these are abstract notions, or they require a bit more time to be observable.
While conducting research, which will hopefully have an impact on both the academic and non-academic world, it is essential to keep these in mind:
· Writing very well with a clear structure and sound research methodology,
· Finding the right balance between description and analysis,
· Covering themes that are topical and relevant,
· Offering a genuinely fresh point of view,
· Collaborating with a practitioner if possible.
If you develop your research with these in mind, it might be easier to create an impact on the academic, the professional and social spheres.
Disclaimer: These are not my findings, but they are summarized from Margaret Adolphus's article titled “How to develop research with impact”.
Reference: Adolphus, Margaret. “How to develop research with impact”. Emerald Publishing. https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/archived/research/guides/management/research_impact.htm