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‘Big step up’ needed to meet greater expectations of impact

Images: Clker-Free-Vector-Images, via Pixabay; Lucian Dinu [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Earma 2021: Researchers told they must stop thinking of communication as a box-ticking exercise

Funders are increasingly expecting researchers to devote more thought to maximising the impact of their work, according to a company that provides services in the area.

“We have an expectation of a much more detailed approach now,” Charlie Rapple said on 19 April at the annual conference of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators.

Rapple, who is the co-founder of Kudos, which teaches researchers how to increase the impact of their work, said there was growing demand for academic outputs to make a mark outside of academia. She said the bar was rising “across funders internationally” and across different types of funder.

According to Rapple, funders have begun to expect more detail on how researchers will communicate their research, with the onus on researchers to engage broader audiences and work towards broader impacts “in a much more proactive way”.

But she said there was still a gap between what funders would like to see and the level of skill at creating impact plans among researchers and support teams.

“There’s a need to upskill everybody involved in writing submissions to really take a sort of big step up…from the relatively simplistic approaches” currently used by researchers, many of whom still see impact sections of proposals as a box-ticking exercise, she said.

Rapple added that some scholars fall into a trap of wasting time and money on channels that do not raise the impact of their research. She urged a more “scientific approach” to communicating science, with tailored approaches to reach the general public, policymakers or educators.

As a first step, researchers must get used to thinking about “who are target audiences and seeing them as separate groups rather than one homogeneous mass”, she urged.

Research Professional News is the official media partner for Earma 2021. Follow more of our coverage on Twitter @ResProfNews and @ResearchEurope, #EARMADigital.