Research impact

First, it is important to distinguish between research impact and publication metrics.

Measuring and showing evidence of the impact of academic research is becoming an everyday event in institutions across Australia and the world.

Types of research impact include:

  • Academic impact - Evidence that the research(er) has contributed to scientific advances including significant advances in understanding, method, theory and application.
  • Economic and societal impact - Evidence that the research has been taken up and used by policymakers, and practitioners, has led to improvements in services or business.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) Assessment framework and guidance on submissions (PDF, 988KB) defines impact as:

an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.

Examples of research impact include:

  • policy decisions or changes to legislation, regulations or guidelines which have been informed by research evidence
  • costs of treatment of health care have changed as a result of research-led changes in practice
  • growth of small businesses in creative industries through the development of new products and services.

Research Excellent Framework, Panel criteria and working methods (PDF, 538KB)

What are publication or citation-based metrics?

Publication or citation-based metrics are often described in terms of what can be counted, quantitative methods such as journal impact factors, individual researchers rankings such as their h-index and the citation counts are often referred to as bibliometrics.

Bibliometrics are based on research outputs; a researcher must have published several publications to be able to measure the possible influence of that research. Research students are encouraged to use bibliometrics to find and evaluate quality literature and consider possible collaborators for the future.

Other ways of determining value can include qualitative measures such as peer review, letters of recommendation, institutional affiliation, successfully acquitted research grants, book reviews, conference publications, holdings in library catalogues and recommended readings for courses.