As well as promoting high-quality scientific research, part of the Academy of Finland’s mission is also to support the utilisation of research results. Recognising the impact research results have beyond academia supports this objective.
Below is a list of questions and answers concerning impact beyond academia. We have compiled the answers from the perspective of the Academy’s core funding schemes (i.e. Academy Project funding and funding for research posts either as Academy Research Fellow or as Postdoctoral Researcher). The Academy also has a few new funding schemes (funding for strategic research, key project funding) where impact beyond academia is a stated objective. These schemes, of course, have different criteria for impact and applicants may be required to propose specific means and activities to promote the impact of research.
Impact in the Academy’s core funding schemes
Section 3 (Objectives and expected results) has been redrafted in the updated research plan guidelines for the September 2016 call. The new structure of the section provides a clearer guideline for how to explain the objectives of the project’s research and its effects and impacts beyond academia. The effects and impact of research is not a separate criterion applied by the panel in the review, and it will not be rated separately. Impacts beyond academia can be considered in specific disciplines or for specific projects as an aspect of the overall project. This applies to the Academy’s core funding schemes.
Questions and answers
Does the Academy want to steer research towards having more impact beyond academia?
No. Our goal is to encourage researchers to take note of the potential that exists for impact beyond academia and in that way to help them position their research in relation to the surrounding scientific community and society at large. Impact can take many different forms. In the long term, research may generate significant, unexpected impact in an unpredictable and unforeseeable direction. Consequently, there are no reasonable grounds to steer scientific research towards a single, recognisable impact. It is not our ambition, nor is it our objective.
What aspects should I consider when describing the impact of my research?
In the application, you should provide your own best understanding or estimate of the potential for impact in the proposed research. As a rule, when it comes to the various manifestations of impact, the Academy does not prioritise one over the other. Your estimate may include new ideas and initiatives, but it must be plausible. The application text will be read by experts within or close to your field of research both in the evaluation panel and at the Academy’s research council, so an overly optimistic or visionary impact description may in fact be detrimental rather than beneficial to your application.
How do I recognise the potential impact of my research?
A good way towards identifying potential for impact is to position your research vis-à-vis the broader scientific community and society beyond academia. Your research has had impact on something (a new development, a change in existing practices, etc.), if that something could not have occurred without the knowledge and know-how emerging from the research. Often, however, there are more factors than an individual result, more than just science-based knowledge or know-how, that lead to the ultimate impact. Above all in the longer term, impact is the result of a variety of factors, including those independent of researchers and research knowledge.
What time frame should I use to describe the impact in the research plan?
The time frame of your impact description should reflect the period in which you think it is possible to recognise the impact or its potential. You can include any identified potential end-users or beneficiaries of your research results in your description. In the case of a medium-term time frame, you can try to identify actors or groups of actors outside your immediate scientific community that could be interested in your research topic. As for the long term, you can try to describe the broader framework (beyond academia), debate or societal issue to which your research is linked as well as the issues or phenomena that your research will potentially influence. You are not required to provide an exact (yearly) estimate of when the impact will be realised.
Who will evaluate my self-assessment of the effects and impact of the research, and how?
When reviewing an application, the peer review panel may opt to comment on the application’s potential in terms of impact beyond academia. Impact beyond academia will not, however, be rated as a separate item. Impact beyond academia is one of the science policy objectives adopted by the Academy. The bodies responsible for making the funding decisions (e.g. the Academy’s research councils) may use the review panels’ remarks on impact in making the decisions. The Academy’s four research councils are made up of representatives of the research fields hosted by each research council, which means that each application and its potential impact are considered specifically from the perspective of the particular field concerned.