The Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health wants to give advice to researchers on how to report on the impact of their research in their final report. Assessing and estimating the societal impacts of research may be challenging. It may take a long time – even decades – to observe the true impacts of the research. The research process itself comprises several projects, which makes the results of a funding period dependent on the outcomes of previous periods. The Academy of Finland provides funding for research projects via several instruments aimed at researchers in different career phases, and the grants differ in both duration and volume. Taken together, these factors contribute to a remarkably wide range of observable and foreseeable research impacts.
Applying the research results outside the research community causes societal effects. The impacts include new products, methods or changes in practice that have been born out of the research. The research may also contribute to the development of a new treatment, or deepen the understanding of a social challenge. It is noteworthy that also negative and exclusionary results may be valuable. It is therefore important to report all identifiable impacts and not just the ones that are considered positive.
Examples of the possible impacts of health research are presented below. The final report (under the heading Project impacts) provides an opportunity to describe the impacts the research has had or may have in the future. It is important to recognise and specify the contribution of the research and describe 1) what kind of impact the research has had or may have in future, and 2) how, when and by whom the results have been or will be utilised. The list below is not exhaustive and research projects are not expected to have an impact in all of the categories. The examples described may also be used when applying for grants that demand anticipation of impacts early in the application process (e.g. ERC grants).
Examples of impacts of health research
- Products, interventions and clinical trials related to human and animal health
Shortly describe the products or interventions resulting from the research (such as diagnostic tests, medication, vaccination, cell or gene therapy, operation, medical devices, nutritional interventions, health or social services), the current phase of the products or interventions and the impacts they have caused or may cause in the future.
- Impact on policy, practices, patients or the general public
Describe the types of practices and procedures the research has affected (such as clinical instructions, Current Care Guidelines (national medical guidelines in Finland), position papers, declarations, and policy guidelines) and what kinds of impacts have been observed or may be expected (for example, reduction in mortality, improvements in quality of life, economic growth, reduction in public service costs, and improvements in availability, efficiency or effectiveness of public services).
- Research database and open access policy
The impacts of the research may be enhanced by archiving the research data, methods and results, by improving their availability and by making them available for follow-up research. Shortly describe the contents and the potential uses of databases and information created during the research. Describe how and when these are available and name their (potential) users and what kinds of impacts this usage has caused or may cause.
- Research methods, tools and other products
Describe the types of research methods, tools or other products (e.g. software, computer models or technical products) the research has produced, name their (potential) users, when and how the product is available and what kinds of impacts the use of the product has caused or may cause.
- Development of professional careers and civic positions of trust
Describe how the research done in the funded project has affected the career development of the team members and their participation in civic positions of trust (e.g. parliamentary hearings, advisory boards, working groups, expert panels, and positions in national or international organisations).
Describe the influence of the project on the education provided at various study or career levels (e.g. changes in educational contents or work methods).
- Follow-on funding
Describe the types and sources of follow-on or supplementary funding gathered within the project.
- Awards and acknowledgements
Describe the awards and acknowledgements earned by the principal investigator or team members of the research team.