The Research Impact Handbook by Mark Reed - Review

This new book aims to help researchers and stakeholders embed impact into research from the early stages, leading to better and more effective results. 

While aimed broadly at academics in the main, who may be wondering how to “REF-proof” their work for the future, there are useful insights both for academics and Knowledge Exchange & Commercialisation (KEC) practitioners in The Research Impact Handbook; in particular some excellent practical advice around using social media to best effect and extending reach and engagement of contacts and influence.

“People and relationships are at the core of this book. Engaging with people, building relationships and maintaining relationships takes time and patience,” says Mark Reed as he embarks on taking the reader through a long-term approach to getting the most out of research.

People and relationships as a common theme is one we’ve seen before, for instance in the Dowling Review, which identified that “Strong, trusting relationships between people in business and academia form the foundation for successful collaboration.”

Building those relationships based on mutual goals and shared understanding is critical, as most will agree. In Reed’s words, “Rather than simply disseminating information, we need to actively engage with those who are looking for new insights, understand their needs and work with them.”  KEC professionals are a great place for researchers to start when seeking insights, contacts and the quickest approach to achieve impact, secure funding, or hear about other opportunities. While “knowledge brokers” are referred to throughout the book, it would be nice to see the supporting role of Knowledge Exchange & Commercialisation professionals within the academic institution more fully acknowledged, in the same way that NGOs and charities are signposted.

Five principles are identified as underpinning impact, based on extensive research. The principles are excellent but one suggested enhancement would be for the role of knowledge brokers such as KEC professionals to be highlighted more clearly – there is significant support for researchers within their institutions, often within the Research & Enterprise Office or similar, and while Principle 3: Engage is speaking to building two-way relationships with those who will use the research, I would suggest that there is benefit in engaging with their organisation’s KEC professionals after Principle 1: Design and before Principle 2: Represent, as useful insights may be gleaned that can then inform Principle 2, make Principle 3 easier to achieve, and bring the perspective of an internally-based but externally-facing intermediary to bear in leveraging potential impact.

Indeed, in Principle 3, Reed highlights the role of knowledge brokers in getting specific about the impact which you may be looking to achieve, however in this reviewer’s eyes, the ideal point of engagement with KEC professionals would be a little earlier.

That aside, there are many useful points and nuggets of information in the book, many of which can be taken away and applied today. While Reed says this book is a long-term approach and not a “quick fix”, it is nevertheless immediately useful.

Impact is a relatively new concept, but the skills it requires are not new in and of themselves. However, this book brings together a structured approach with practical guidance in an accessible way for anyone feeling a little daunted at the prospect of shifting from being a “disseminator of knowledge” to becoming a more active participant in unlocking the impact within that knowledge. 


The book is available to buy online here.