The excellent research funded by the UK Research Councils has a huge impact on the wellbeing and economy of the UK. Working together with our wider communities and other partners, we want to ensure that these impacts are effectively demonstrated and supported throughout the research life cycle and beyond. This will add value, stimulate interest from wider stakeholders - including the general public - and, where needed, actively highlight the need for continued investment in the research base.
The onus rests with applicants to demonstrate how they will achieve this excellence with impact, bearing in mind that impacts can take many forms and be promoted in different ways.
The Research Councils describe impact as the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Impact embraces all the extremely diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations by:
- fostering global economy performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom,
- increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy, and
- enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.
This accords with the Royal Charters of the Councils and with HM Treasury guidance on the appraisal of economic impact.
STFC is committed to the principles below, as articulated in the RCUK Expectations for Societal and Economic Impact.
The Research Councils give their funding recipients considerable flexibility and autonomy in the delivery of their research, postgraduate training and knowledge transfer activities. This flexibility and autonomy encompasses project definition, management, collaboration, participation, promotion and the dissemination of research outputs; this approach enables excellence with impact.
In return, the Research Councils expect those who receive funding to:
- demonstrate an awareness of the wider environment and context in which their research takes place
- demonstrate an awareness of the social and ethical implications of their research, beyond usual research conduct considerations, and take account of public attitudes towards those issues
- engage actively with the public at both the local and national levels about their research and its broader implications
- identify potential benefits and beneficiaries from the outset, and through the full life cycle of the project(s)
- maintain professional networks that extend beyond their own discipline and research community
- publish results widely - considering the academics, users and public audiences for research outcomes
- exploit results where appropriate, in order to secure social and economic return to the UK
- manage collaborations professionally, in order to secure maximum impact without restricting the future progression of research
- ensure that research staff and students develop research, vocational and entrepreneurial skills that are matched to the demands of their future career paths
- take responsibility for the curation, management and exploitation of data for future use
- work in partnership with the Research Councils for the benefit of the UK
The expectations clarify the position of the Research Councils with respect to impact, rather than introducing a new approach. Many of these expectations are already incorporated into Research Council processes and guidance, for example exploitation is addressed within grant terms and conditions, and continuing professional development through the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.