Research Impact Café Sessions
In this post, members of the Research Impact team share their experience hosting Research Impact Café events in June 2019 and discuss the importance of thinking about impact as a researcher.
PGRs often ask themselves: Is my research going to have an impact on the world? This is surely something every researcher hopes for, but we may need to change the question: How do I make my research have an impact?
Chance, serendipity, fortuitous timing & sheer brilliance all have their part to play, but having a plan to give your research real world impact is a good way to make it happen!
We here in the Research Impact team at the university do our best to encourage and help you to reflect on this aspect of your research career, which is all about making an impact beyond academia, out there in the “real world”.
You may feel that the early stages of a PhD are too soon to think about this, but it’s never too early to spend some time thinking about it. This will set you up well for when you are ready to implement your ideas, and if you have an eye to a career in academia, you’ll want to learn about this important area of researcher activity (which gets assessed in the REF and funding applications).
One way we’ve brought ideas and advice about research impact to PGRs and other UofG researchers is through a free MOOC (or Massive Open Online Course) called ‘Research Impact: Making a Difference’, which ran first in October 2018 and for a second time in May 2019. The course is running again in November this year, and you can sign up now for reminders if you’re interested.
After the session in May, we hosted some Research Impact Café events in June. These were open to both staff and students: it’s not often we run events that will work right across all grades of research staff and students from all subject areas, but discussing the real-world impact of your research is actually something that can cross all these boundaries and categories! The ‘café’ reflected the fact that the events were designed to be informal and welcoming, and (of course) coffee and cake were provided to encourage discussions.
We had over 30 people at each café (a bigger room will be needed next time!) with almost half students/half staff at each one. And while where there were impact experts on hand – from librarains to impact officers to research impact MOOC creator, butcafé participants were all busy bouncing their ideas for impact off each other: the room was buzzing with conversations!
The event ended with discussions on each group’s ‘lightbulb’ moments, which reflected that stepping back from your research to think about its impact is a really useful exercise. Talking about it with non-subject-specialists is also a great way to get different viewpoints and questions, since they can make links you never would have thought of. Our events were all about facilitating these conversations to stimulate reflection on building impact into research right from the very start, and possibly even letting it inform your research design.
There are Research Impact sessions for PGR students running in the next academic year (see MyCampus), and more Impact Cafés are in the works for the autumn term!
If you want to start thinking about research impact now, a great way to start is by working through the Research Impact planning template or by starting a conversation with your fellow researchers.
What do you think? Has impact been on your mind? Do you have any ideas? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @UofG_PGRblog.