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The analysis, commissioned by HEFCE and partners [Note 1], will draw on the 6,975 impact case studies submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) [Note 2]. Digital Science, a division of Macmillan Science & Education, will undertake the project; working in conjunction with its sister company Nature Publishing Group and the policy institute at King’s College, London.

As part of the REF exercise, universities submitted case studies showcasing the impact of their research beyond academia. These studies outline changes and benefits to the economy, society, culture, public policy and services, health, the environment and quality of life.

The objectives of this work are to:

  • Make the impact case studies freely available in a form and format that will enable any researcher to carry out analysis, using a range of techniques and methods including automated text-mining. We envisage that this will be achieved through an online database of case studies.
  • Carry out a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the impact case studies, to extract common themes and messages that will form evidence of the broad impact of higher education research on wider society.

The results of the project will be published in spring 2015. A summary will be published as a supplement in Nature, the leading international science journal.

 Steven Hill, HEFCE Head of Research Policy, said:

‘Sector-level analysis of the REF impact case studies will be of great benefit to the UK’s higher education sector as a whole, and will provide valuable information to demonstrate the range of impacts of its research’

Timo Hannay, Managing Director of Digital Science, said:

‘We’re very proud that our new consultancy division has been awarded this important evaluation project by HEFCE. Our team combines the technological expertise of Digital Science and 25 years of practical experience of research evaluation and assessment from our project leads and the Policy Institute at Kings College, London. That experience is linked through prior work, a common knowledge base and awareness of the deficits in historical research evaluation.’

Jonathan Grant, Director, Policy Institute and Professor of Public Policy, King’s College London, said:

‘The Policy Institute at King’s and the Department of Digital Humanities are very excited to have this unique and challenging opportunity to synthesise the impact of research that has occurred in UK universities in recent years. Drawing on our knowledge and experience of impact assessment and frameworks, and using text mining techniques, we will assess the scale and nature of the impact across the case studies submitted to REF.’

Notes

  1. Partners in this project are the Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Department for Employment and Learning NI, Research Councils UK, the Wellcome Trust.
  2. REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK universities and higher education colleges. The results of the 2014 REF will be published in December.
  3. More information about Digital Science.
  4. More information about Nature Publishing Group (NPG).