By Claire Aitchison
These days there is an increasing expectation that research has ‘impact’. There is more to this than government policy (such as Australia’s Engagement and Impact Assessment). The impact agenda has particular resonance in a world where research funding is increasingly constrained and universities compete for influence and reputation in order to attract funding. ‘Impact’ also connects to quality, and accountability.
Impact is sometimes narrowly conceived of as countable measures of the uptake of research (ie publications, citations and grants) but it also includes less easily quantifiable things like influence on practice, resultant applications, the generation of new ideas and outcomes, and longer-term subtle change. This perspective relates to ideas about the public good and the public intellectual – in other words, it is about being connected to, and giving back to, society.
But how does this impact agenda affect doctoral research and writing?
I think there might be a number of ways. Firstly, considerations of ‘impact’ can constrain or influence the choice of doctoral research topic. For example, an aspiring doctoral candidate may have a personal passion or interest in floral art – but is this alone worthy of 4 years of public funding? If, however, their research concerns the re-imagination of the cultural aesthetic, an exploration of commercial value, or the preservation of endangered flora for floristry, the potential impact becomes clear because the benefit of the research is clear. Continue reading