The reviled word of the year in academic circles is, surely, impact. Is it really such a bad thing?
Secondly, the current proposals for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) [http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2009/09_38/] that will replace the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) are that research excellence, measured by peer review informed by citation analysis, will count for 60%, impact, assessed by an impact statement and case studies will count for 25% and research environment, assessed under the headings resourcing, management and engagement, will count for 15%. The draft ‘common menu’ of impact indicators includes
- Employment of post-doctoral researchers in industry or spin-out companies.
- Participation on public policy/advisory committees.
- Changes to public attitudes to science.
- Audience/participation levels at public engagement activities.
- Positive reviews or participant feed back on public engagement activities.
There are areas of concern. For example, will ‘hard’ measures of impact, such as research income from industry, outweigh ‘soft’ measures such as those relating to public engagement activities? Nevertheless, including an impact element both in criteria for funding and in criteria for assessment could help drive science departments to become more inclusive.