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Impact Workshop (10): Research Impact Assessment in the Research Excellence Framework: Laurels for the Hardy!

Date & Time:

December 9, 2015 (Wed) | 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon


Seminar Room 1, G/F, Room LG-S1, Laboratory Block, Faculty of Medicine Building, 21 Sassoon Road


Professor Hugh McKenna
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
University of Ulster
Chairman of the UK REF 2014 Sub-panel 3: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

This workshop is jointly organised by the School of Nursing and the Knowledge Exchange Office.



We grow no food on campus, so like every poet, priest or potter. . ., we must explain why we have faith in the usefulness of what we do provide (Gray, 2012, p. 33)

For almost thirty years publicly funded research in the UK has been assessed for quality in a series of research assessment exercises. The most recent one is called the Research Excellence Framework (HEFCE, 2014). Such exercises are carried out in many countries across the world. These include Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Romania, Hong Kong, Germany and most recently the Czech Republic. The results are mainly used to inform the allocation of research funding and provide accountability for tax payers’ money. For the first time the UK's Research Excellence Framework (REF) has assessed the impact of research. This is not surprising since politicians and others are asking universities to outline what has been achieved from publicly funded research. It is also not surprising that other countries are watching the results of this with great interest and many are already planning to assess impact as part of their future research assessment exercises (e.g. Sweden). Increasingly, these governments believe it is not unreasonable to ask those whose research work is undertaken at public expense to account for and provide some evidence of their activities and outcomes. This presentation is based on my experience as the Chairman of a review panel in RAE2008 and REF2014. It will demonstrate how the exercise was carried out and how impact was assessed and what the plans are for the next exercise in 2020.

About the Speaker:

Professor Hugh McKenna CBE is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Ulster University. He has over 250 publications including 11 books and over £7 million in grants. He has been made a Fellow of several academies and Royal Colleges. In 2008 he was made Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for his work on health and community and the award of Senior Distinguished Researcher. He sits on national/international committees for three charities, four research funding bodies and five editorial boards. In 2014, he was presented with a lifetime achievement Award for research at London's Institute of Psychiatry. He is a member of the International Scientific Advisory Board for King’s London.

He is Chair of Innovation Ulster Limited, the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health, the ESRC Administrative Data Research Centre and the Hong Kong Accreditation Panel for Health Sciences. He holds a number of other non-executive positions including the Patient and Client Council. He is on the Boards of NI Science Park, the Medical Research Council's Methodological Hub and MATRIX, Northern Ireland’s Science Industry Panel.

He chaired the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework panel for nursing, allied health professions, pharmacy and dentistry. He was also recently an executive member of the UK Council of Deans of Health, the Swedish Health Sciences Research Council. He is an Adjunct/Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, USA, University of Moribor, Slovenia, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, and Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and Head of the Visiting Committee at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. .

Background on the Workshops:

Impact is a key element of the University's knowledge exchange (KE) strategy. Since 2012/13, the University Grants Committee (UGC) requires each UGC-funded institution to submit up to 5 impact case studies that are underpinned by excellent research as part of the knowledge transfer/KE annual report each year. The format is similar to the impact case study template of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.

It is also important to note that in the Panel-Specific Assessment Criteria for the UGC RAE 2014, all the Panels included under the "Esteem" measure some elements relating to KE/technology transfer. This suggests that the next Hong Kong RAE will likely require evidence of impact and the UK experience indicates that now is the time to start collecting evidence of such impacts.

The Knowledge Exchange Office is organising workshops to be conducted by researchers who have hands-on experience in preparing impact statements and impact case studies for the UK REF 2014 or research councils overseas. The workshops will be of interest not only to colleagues who want to maximise the impact of their research, but also to those who co-ordinate research developments and research assessment in Faculties.

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