Impact through research in education and studies in human society: a review of Australian Research Council 'high-for-impact' case studies

Jefferson, Grace, Henry, Rosita, Heyeres, Marion, Morgan, Rhian, Tomas Engel, Louisa, Tsey, Komla, and Zuchowski, Ines (2024) Impact through research in education and studies in human society: a review of Australian Research Council 'high-for-impact' case studies. PLoS ONE, 19 (5). e0302877.

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Abstract

Research impact is an important measure of the effective transmission and ongoing contribution of research beyond the scope of initial research publication outputs; however, determining what constitutes ‘high-for-impact’ research can be difficult for specific fields of study. This review of the Australian Research Council’s Engagement and Impact Assessment 2018 analyses high-for-impact case studies submitted in the fields of Education (n=17) and Studies in Human Society (n=11) with the aim of understanding and explicating how high impact research has been evidenced in these fields. The review was guided by three research questions that concern the identification of the key characteristics of high-for-impact case studies, their reported impacts, and the evidence researchers cite to support claims of impact. The review highlights an important limitation in how impact is defined and understood by researchers, particularly cultural and social impact. Half of the analysed case studies involved international engagement, with minimal partner collaboration in the global south and countries in the Indo-Pacific, despite the region’s strategic geo-political importance for Australia. Our findings draw into question the distribution of funding to universities and where investment might best be made for the highest potential return on research impact. Another key finding is that reported impacts across the domains of economy, society, culture, national security, public service, health, environment and quality of life offer little satisfactory evidence of impact, despite affording valuable insights into the nature of impact claimed. Accordingly, we conclude that to enhance the value of research and demonstrate impact in Education and Social Sciences, improved impact literacy is required among researchers. We assert that a better understanding of what constitutes impact and how it can be evidenced will support more impactful research designs. Wider adoption of the holistic anthropological definition of culture, which integrates values, practices and products, would enhance impact case studies by expanding their focus to include the broader cultural changes that underpin sustained social change. While the ARC engagement and impact agenda is a step in the right direction, improving the value of research for society will require a radical reconceptualisation of research and its funding, well beyond the current assessment framework. The Lowitja Institute’s research-for-impact framework [1] is proposed as an alternative approach to research priority-setting based on explicit evidence gap analysis.

Item ID: 82829
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Keywords: research; era; impact;
Copyright Information: © 2024 Jefferson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2024 02:44
FoR Codes: 39 EDUCATION > 3999 Other Education > 399999 Other education not elsewhere classified @ 50%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4499 Other human society > 449999 Other human society not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1399 Other culture and society > 139999 Other culture and society not elsewhere classified @ 50%
16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1699 Other education and training > 169999 Other education and training not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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