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The issue, if you are primarily concerned with economic impact, is therefore how best to support technological progress. And here again there is a high level of consensus.

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Firstly, it is accepted that technological progress requires both basic or curiosity-driven research and applied research. Secondly, it is accepted that governments bear the central responsibility to fund basic research. That is, because the applications of such research cannot be foreseen, and possibly come with a long time-lag between fundamental discoveries and their translation into practical returns.

Public research plays a key role in innovation systems by providing new knowledge and pushing the knowledge frontier. Universities and public research institutions often undertake longer-term, higher-risk research and complement the activities of the private sector. So why then do we in the basic research community feel that we are under constant pressure to justify our activities and our budgets? I believe that there are two related reasons. The first one is that, even if the importance of basic research for technological progress is accepted, the way science relates to it and to economic growth is inherently complex and still poorly understood.

The misunderstanding may arise from the many successes of the past. As people have seen a sustained stream of findings, technologies and innovations appear decade after decade, some people have come to think of it as an easy and, in the end, predictable process. But of course we know that science does not and cannot work that way. First of all, let me insist that we do care about the scientific impact, the ways disciplines transform themselves because of new results, new concepts, new models We must always recall that new domains of science appear all the time, and new combinations of science become fruitful and require a new attitude and a new spirit from scientists.

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Coming back to technologies, we must stress that they harness natural phenomena. These phenomena exist in the world regardless of our desires. It was not decided one day that better means of communication were needed and then somebody discovered electromagnetic waves.


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The basic circuits used in computers were not found by people who wanted to build computers. They were discovered in the s by physicists dealing with the counting of nuclear particles, their topic of interest. Many of the commercially successful inventions that have driven economic growth in the last decades come from research conducted with no commercial purpose. I am more interested in the elegance of a problem. Is it a good problem? An interesting problem? Now, my second reason is that we scientists need to do a better job of explaining how science works.

If we behave like this, then we ourselves are contributing to the impression that science is easy and predictable, when we all know it is hard work and we often fail! We need to be clear that basic research is essentially trying to understand how things work. This can in some circumstances lead to identify new phenomena, i.

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There is indeed no linear process by which scientists make discoveries, then harnessed through a complex chain of actions. We therefore need to contest the idea that asking researchers to address impact ex ante as only possible basis for having their research funded can do no harm. Forcing researchers towards expected, intended and immediate impact risks missing out on truly transformational discoveries.

It can also lead to gaps in scientific knowledge in areas, which are not of societal interest at one point in time, but might be so later, and even become of paramount importance. Moreover, requiring scientists to set out what the impact of their project will be beforehand may decrease trust in science if these promises are not delivered. Further, the channels through which basic research feeds into the economy are many and diverse.

It is not just about the occasional breakthroughs. Fundamentally, basic research increases the stock of useful knowledge, both codified e. It plays a decisive role in training skilled graduates and researchers in solving complex problems, produces new scientific instruments and methodologies, creates international peer networks through which the latest knowledge circulates efficiently, and can even raise new questions about societal values and choices. A strong science base allows countries to be at the forefront of knowledge creation because, without this knowledge, individuals, firms or countries lack the capacity to identify and absorb potentially exploitable knowledge created elsewhere.

Of course we could say much more on the interactions between basic research, technological progress and economic growth. We must explain to them why it is legitimate to refuse to get into the game of trying to demonstrate the unknowable a priori, and to limit the indispensable breadth needed to consider science from many angles. In a nutshell, the best bets are made when scientists are pushed to their boundaries when submitting research proposals, and the most competent evaluators are confronted with these challenging projects.

You may have to press them to take on risk, as our community is actually spontaneously conservative and needs to be put outside of its comfort zone to accept some bets. This is precisely what the European Research Council is about, and I hope it plays its part in this process of educating policy-makers. Print this document. They may be Higher Education Institutions, Charities or other organisations that undertake research and research management activities receiving support from NIHR.

Researchfish — refers to Researchfish Ltd, the company that currently provides the NIHR authorised web-based system to collect information on the outputs, outcomes and impacts of research activity.

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Do not name specific people in your submission. NIHR will use information provided by award holders to develop impact case studies, inform communications activity, populate project pages on the NIHR website, and undertake research, evaluation and comparative analysis. Information you submit via Researchfish may be quoted, in full or in part, and attributed to your NIHR award.

Information is shared with the Research Organisation that has contractual responsibility for the NIHR award to which you have attributed outputs, outcomes and impacts. The Research Organisation can access that information through the Researchfish platform.

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Why and how does the NIHR use information for analysis, research, evaluation and impact assessment? How does award information get into Researchfish? This information is managed in line with the principles of the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act and used in combination with the information on research outcomes you enter in Researchfish to: operate the Researchfish platform including notifying award holders of changes to the system, system downtime and deadlines for submission of information report to the NIHR and Research Organisations on progress in gathering data during the submission window, and to monitor data quality, compliance and administer the NIHR sanctions approach.

The NIHR currently uses the following additional questions in Researchfish: Patient and Public Involvement - all NIHR award holders are asked to describe how they have involved patients and the public in their research, the factors contributing to successful involvement, challenges associated with involvement and the difference involvement has made. Data Sharing - those awards that will publish in the NIHR Journals Library are asked if they have been asked to share their data and, if so, who with, for what purpose and if any known outputs are associated with the original data set.

Career Tracker - additional questions for all personal and institutional award holders managed by the NIHR Academy after completion of their award. These questions capture information on next destination, time spent conducting research or clinical duties and, where appropriate, if they have completed their PhD.

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Information from other sources may also be added to an award by the following means: ORCID - publications can be added via ORCID in the following ways: where publications are linked to an ORCID and are publically available; or, where a researcher has made their information restricted and has both authenticated through their Researchfish and ORCID accounts, and made Researchfish a trusted service.

Research Organisations - some Research Organisations upload information about publications into Researchfish directly where they have valid unique identifiers for publications, valid award reference and funder information related to those publications, and where NIHR has indicated that the Research Organisation is either the contracted organisation or one with a significant role in the research. Researchfish uses a range of techniques to do this pulling from publishers via Crossref, PubMed, companies house ; providers such as Clarivate via Web of Science ; and institutional, thematic and general repositories e.

Figshare, Zenodo, University of Cambridge etc.

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Extract data: we extract data via SQL queries to respond to internal e. Such data then feed into our data warehouse to support other functions such as populating our website.

Information provided to the NIHR via Researchfish is then processed in the following ways, for example: We draw key information about the reported outputs, outcomes and impacts on to our website We use the information to prepare impact case studies, usually corroborating the information provided with other sources available in documents, online and with individuals via telephone discussions.

These cases are used in a variety of ways such as in our communications activity and website, to respond to information requests and published within NIHR reports. Text you submit via Researchfish may be quoted, in full or in part, and attributed to the appropriate NIHR award.

By accepting an NIHR award you agree to this use, publication and onward dissemination of outcomes. We may take information such as Digital Object Identifiers DOIs and put these into other tools such as Altmetric or Dimensions to gain a better understanding of the reach of research outputs and report on bibliometrics. Information may also be returned to the Research Organisation that has contractual responsibility for the NIHR award to which you have allocated outputs, outcomes and impacts.

You should contact your local administrator for guidance on how this information will be used in your own organisation.