Presence, conversations and clocks

I occasionally hear academic peers say “what’s the point in doing research if it is not published in a 3 or 4 star journal?” and “we can only use 2 star research to underpin impact work”. These statements directly reference the way bureaucratic systems have metricised the evaluation of research; the metrics of an audit culture shape how we think, feel and act towards research (and of course other things which are not research).

I can understand these comments, as some universities do indeed recruit and promote using such notions even if they have signed up to the global movement to make the evaluation of research more holistic and meaningful such as DORA. This is also the case despite the reported destructive effects on researchers (and non-researchers), careers, and how it promotes gaming in the system.

Specifically, there is now evidence which suggests that interdisciplinary and applied research across disciplines in not as cited as much as other forms of research, despite such work contributing directly and unambiguously to practice. This work includes medical innovations and changes to the way governments or authorities operate.

Recent research has highlighted that there are three things which are helpful to remember when thinking about the impact of research – that it can be created through presence, through conversations, and can unfold over time, around the clock. Specifically:

  • Impact can be created through presence. When we undertake research with or within organisations, we know this can have an impact linked to The Hawthorn Effect; people may want to appear more efficient or effective, or they may simply have more opportunities – due to the arrangements of the research – to reflect on what the research topic is about in their localised context, or indeed, to start talking about it with others.
  • Impact can be created through conversations. The role of conversations in the workplace can be underestimated, as they can not only be central to how we share ideas and knowledge, but also ae a key route towards engagement and culture change. In essence, research which promotes conversations can drive awareness, reflection, creativity and change.
  • Impact can unfold over time, around the clock. Perhaps more significantly, the narrative about impact can substantially change over time. This is partly driven by the way we make sense of situations over time (we might understand it better or we might even forget), but some changes can only be articulated after-the-fact where a distinct before-after narrative can be articulated.

As we develop our understanding of the dynamics of impact, we can learn to utilise it to generate positive impacts in the world, rather than because we need a certain kind of output, in a certain outlet, within a certain time period, for a certain externally driven requirement.

This, at least for me, helps articulate why we should do research outside of the 3 and 4 star requirement; that it enables us to utilise our creative capacities towards our passions as morally and socially connected and engaged human beings, and collaborate in areas of mutual significance and meaning with others in practice. Hopefully for some, this might help us reorient more research work towards something we feel is more worthwhile.

Article Details

Tony Wall

Date Published:

October 8th, 2019


, , , ,

Would you like to contribute to our Real Impact blog? Find out how.

Recent News & Blogs

- Discover impact news from across the globe

Keeping the door open

Shelley Allen - Open Research

As the new year dawned, the open access landscape was already in full discussion as cOAlition S requested feedback on their proposed framework for transformative journals. Here I explain our position on this framework and our aspirations for the future. At Emerald we are committed to providing a leading service for open research, in a

Read Article

The 1st issue of Real Impact is now live

Read the latest news and insights for the change-makers in the research community, who are passionate about making a difference and challenging the status quo.

Read Article

Stay In School campaign: Operationalising the extra medical measures to address the issue of fistula in Northern Nigeria

Dr. Bankole Allibay

Fistula and Extra-Medical Solution The orthodox response to gender-based sicknesses is scientific medical treatment. Although not incorrect, field experiences show that these treatments are often times reactive, and do not prevent a repeat incidence. Social performance practice recommends proactive social risk diagnosis and proactive risk management procedures, rather than reactive impact management. Such is the

Read Article

We use cookies to enhance your online experience. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to accept them in accordance with our cookie policy or you can .

Emerald Logo

Privacy and information

You can find further information about our privacy policy here.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

Strictly Necessary Cookies should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings and ensure that the website works correctly, for example logging into the website.

If you disable these cookies, we will not be able to save your preferences and you may not be able to log in to the website. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.

You can find further information about our cookie policy here.

Third Party Cookies

This website uses Google Analytics to collect anonymous information such as the number of visitors to the site, and the most popular pages.

Keeping this cookie enabled helps us to improve our website.

You can find further information about our cookie policy here.

Privacy and information

You can find further information about our privacy policy here.

To enjoy the full experience of our website please .