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Research, meet market research

Academics wishing to influence policy and practice could learn a lot from how businesses choose and market their projects, say Kathryn Oliver and Sarah Cotterill.

When a company develops a product, it does so on the back of years of market research: understanding what customers need, assessing competitors and predicting likely market share. The aim is to avoid a project for which there is insufficient demand to justify the investment.

Most researchers would like their work to have an impact outside academia, especially given their public funding and the growing importance of impact in research evaluation. Unlike businesses, researchers are not in overt competition. But understanding the similarities and differences between outputs, and their likely users and impact, is crucial to understanding what makes policymakers and practitioners use research.

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