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Research Impact: What is research impact?

Get strategies to increase the reach of your work and measure your research impact

What is research impact?

It’s possible to think about the beneficial consequences of research in two ways: academic and societal. Academic consequences include publications, collaborations, participating in peer review, new ways of thinking about and understanding our world, and new research questions. Societal consequences are the things that society gains from research, which might include better products, better services, healthier lives, better welfare, as well as increased understanding of ideas and attitudes, values and beliefs, and so on. These beneficial consequences are quite varied, and that's why there are so many pathways to creating impact. These pathways are defined by the research that drives them. However, the Australian Research Council’s definitions defines impact increasingly in social terms: 

"Research impact is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment and culture beyond the contribution to academic research” (Australian Research Council, 2017).

What are research outputs?

The strategies you choose for dissemination will also depend on the nature of your research outputs. Research outputs, as referred to here, are the products of your research that may include journal articles, books, data sets, creative works, training materials, public talks, videos, podcasts, or software. Keep in mind that the Australian Research Council defines research output more specifically, and outputs must conform to definitions of research.

Where can I get support?

There are many support services for impact and engagement activities within the University of Sydney, including:


Library support services and contacts

The Library offers a range of services in support of impact and engagement activities.

Contact your Academic Liaison Librarian for help with:

  • Calculating traditional citation metrics drawn from Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar
  • Altmetrics reporting and assessment
  • Open access publishing options
  • Resolving issues with author ambiguity and setting up an ORCID account
  • Identifying potential collaborators and industry partners 

Get in touch with the Research Data team for support with research data publishing, data accessibility, and data visualisation.

The Copyright Services team can help you with questions about publishing and sharing your work.


Read more

Australian Government National Innovation and Science Agenda. (2016). Engagement and impact assessment consultation paper.

Australian Research Council. (2015). Research impact pathway table.

Australian Research Council. (2017). Engagement and impact assessment pilot 2017: Report.

Cameron, F. (2012). Research impact.  

Digital Science. (2014). REF 2014: Impact case studies.

European Science Foundation Member Organisation Forum on Evaluation of Publicly Funded Research. (2012). The challenges of impact assessment.

Fast Track Impact. (2017). Fast track impact: Training by researchers for researchers.

National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement. (2014). REF impact pilot: Background briefing.