Dr Tracey Wond discusses the value of external evaluators delivering university impact activity.
After working as a Head of Research in a University Business School, leading two REFs, and leading/co-leading all our case studies, I know it can be really tough trying to demonstrate impact whilst balancing academic life. I also know it's time-consuming - the meetings to talk about impact start to outweigh time on actually creating impact (and let's not start on publishing the underpinning research!)!
I was fortunate after evaluating enterprise growth programmes, doing a PhD in evaluation, and being engaged with professional development in evaluation through the UK Evaluation Society, that I knew what impact was (and probably more important - what it wasn't!). I sat in the deliberations about what life would look like after RAE and welcomed an impact section.
I was also fortunate in the REF2014 that two of our research centres had used external evaluators to evaluate their activity. The external evaluations meant it wasn't just the case of of us saying we were great with a few testimonials for good measure - but we actually had independent, robust evaluation findings to back up our claims.
In the video below, Mark Reed sum-ups this dilemma perfectly - many universities are expecting their researchers to know and be able to communicate their impact - regardless of whether they're best placed to.
If you're a researcher bidding for work why not cost up an external evaluator? The likes of the UK Evaluation Society make it easier to find evaluators, and like us here at HEIER there are many organisations and individuals who undertake such work.
If you're a research leader, have you costed the time your researchers are spending learning impact, does spending their time make sense, and does it lead to a better or lesser outcome?
Let's start talking about universities will measure and communicate their impact better.