What is the purpose of the Pathways to Impact statement?
The Pathways to Impact statement is designed to encourage researchers to explore from the outset who beyond academia could potentially benefit from the research and to consider what can be done to increase the chances of the research influencing change.
How should I format my Pathways to Impact statement?
The statement should be uploaded as a PDF document to the JeS form. It must be no longer than 2 pages of A4, with minimum 2cm margins and font size 11 Arial. Check your specific Council’s current guidance for the most recent specification as these do change occasionally.
It is helpful if the statement includes headings to break up text, and can include diagrams, tables, images and Gantt charts.
Is there a template I can follow?
Research Councils advise against generic Pathways to Impact statements so there is no set template. Each statement should be bespoke to that project. You should begin with a clear summary of the key impact objectives of the project. For each objective detail who will benefit and how you plan to achieve that impact.
Briefly outline the track record of those involved, and any pre-existing relationships with beneficiaries. Also itemise any costs.
How does the Pathways to Impact statement relate to the Impact Statement in the JeS form?
The purpose of the impact statement on the JeS form is to identify the potential beneficiaries of your proposed research, and what the impact of the research is likely to be for them. It is important to remember that should your application be successful, the Research Council may publish the JeS statement in the public domain. Therefore it should be written in a non-technical language.
The Pathways to Impact statement forms part of the Case for Support and is used by reviewers.
What do I need to cover in my Pathways to Impact statement?
The Pathways to Impact statement must detail what you will do during the project to maximise the chances of there being impact from the research. This may involve events, engagement activities, publications, training, IP management, etc. You should design your impact activities so that they align with and are integrated with the research itself to demonstrate that impact is not an afterthought.
When should I begin to write the Pathways to Impact statement?
You should begin to write the statement when you start preparing the research case for support. Plans for impact should be an intrinsic part of the proposal and not a last minute afterthought.
What types of impact are the Research Councils interested in?
Impact is defined as follows by RCUK: “…. the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Research impact embraces all the diverse ways that research-related skills benefit individuals, organisations and nations. These include:
- fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom
- increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy
- enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.
A key aspect of this definition of research impact is that impact must be demonstrable. It is not enough just to focus on activities and outputs that promote research impact, such as staging a conference or publishing a report. You must be able to provide evidence of research impact, for example, that it has been taken up and used by policymakers, and practitioners, has led to improvements in services or business.”
Where should I detail the likely academic impact of the proposed research?
There is a separate section of the JeS form where academic impact can be described. There you should describe the potential academic outcomes including publications and other dissemination, benefits to your own and other disciplines, in the UK and internationally.
How can I demonstrate that impact is embedded in my research project?
If possible show that your potential beneficiaries are already involved in the planning of the research and/or that there is demand for the research from them. Demonstrate that activities which will help to realise the impact are scheduled throughout the project and not all focused in dissemination at the end.
What if I can foresee no societal or economic impact arising from my proposed project?
Impact from research is defined very broadly so it is very unlikely that no impact at all could be expected from the project. If however this is the case then you should use the Pathways to Impact statement to explain your reasoning for this situation. Your statement will be reviewed with the rest of the proposal but it is not sufficient to simply write “not applicable” or to not attach a statement, as this will result in your proposal being returned as incomplete or instantly rejected.
Should all the impact generating activities be planned to take place after the research is completed?
No! Stronger Pathways to Impact statements combine impact activities and engagement with beneficiaries throughout the whole research project.
Can I include third party support for realising impact from my research?
Yes! The research team does not need to deliver the impact generating activities all themselves, indeed there are experts who can probably do some jobs more effectively – e.g. event planning, website design, evaluation and surveys, writing for particular audiences. Be sure to include the costs of consultants and other third parties in your budget.
Can I include letters of support from potential beneficiaries with my application?
Yes! This demonstrates that there is demand from the research users for the project and that the potential beneficiaries are already engaged with the research team. This all adds confidence that the project will deliver impact.
Should I include examples of similar activities I’ve been involved in previously?
Yes! If relevant, a brief track record of similar successes will help to add confidence that the project will deliver impact.
Isn’t it enough to plan for a project website and a press release when the project results are published?
No! Many dissemination activities are now expected as an essential part of a funded research project. Applicants need to show that they have considered the most appropriates routes to engage with potential beneficiaries of the research, and have designed activities to best suit each circumstance throughout the project. It is also expected that impact generating activities are planned throughout the project, not just end of project dissemination focused.
How can I plan to evaluate whether my plans will be successful?
It is important to consider how you will be able to demonstrate if your plans have worked. This requires some forward planning and potentially some additional resources so it is important to consider it alongside your impact plans. You might consider including feedback mechanisms, recording user interactions, tracking and following up document downloads for example.
How will the costs of the impact plan be met?
Reasonable costs of generating impact are eligible and expected to be included in the project budget. Availability of other funding to support impact generation is scarce so provision should be included at this stage with full reasoning given in the Justification of Resources statement.
Does my Pathways to Impact statement have to be peer reviewed with the rest of my application?
Yes, the statement forms part of the review of the Case for Support. It may be separately rated to inform secondary ranking of proposals at the review panel meeting.
How will Research Council reviewers treat my Pathways to Impact statement?
Whilst the quality of the research proposal remains the primary funding criterion, Pathways to Impact statements are being used by some Research Councils to rank proposals when the quality of the research proposals are equal.
Each Research Council has published guidance to help reviewers assess Pathways to Impact, this guidance is available on the relevant Research Council website and is useful for applicants to check to ensure that their statement meets all the reviewers’ criteria.
Will I have to report if my plans were successful?
Yes – all RCUK grant holders are now required to submit an annual report on outcomes from research via the ResearchFish system, this includes details of non-academic impacts. Failure to submit a ResearchFish report will result in sanctions that may affect your current and future projects.
If your research leads to impact which is to be included in a case study for the Research Excellence Framework, you will need to have evidence supporting the impact claims to include in the submission.
Where at UEA can I get help with my Pathways to Impact statement?
Contact your RIN Project Officer who will put you in touch with relevant colleagues who can help you. The RIN Impact Team and other specialists at the University can also provide support both for writing the statement and for helping to realise the impact.
Are there other sources of help?
Yes – there are loads of resources to help, the following are particularly recommended:
- The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement can provide advice on effective engagement techniques including planning for evaluation of activities.
- The ESRC Impact Toolkit
- EPSRC’s Your Pathways to Impact video
Can I find examples of Pathways to Impact statements?
Colleagues may be willing to share their statements from previous applications, your REN Project Officer or the Impact Team may be able to suggest suitable colleagues to approach.
I’m lacking in ideas about potential impact from my research. Where can I look for inspiration?
The RCUK have published some case study examples, all of the impact case studies submitted to REF 2014 are available online in a searchable database and the EU Science in Society Portal may help to give you some ideas. There are lots of academic blogs on the topic of research impact too – particularly recommended is the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog, the NCCPE website and Fast Track Impact.