From outcomes to process: evidence for a new approach to research impact assessment
Use the link to access pay-per-view options for the article published in the journal Research Evaluation available from OUP. "This article reports evidence from two studies conducted in nine British universities into individual academic and institutional perspectives on research impact. We analyse our findings in the context of global developments in performance measurement. Mechanisms for assessing the quality of research and associated knowledge exchange serve a dual purpose: used retrospectively, they enable public funding agencies to hold universities to account for the monies they have received and, looking forward, they allow those same agencies to incentivize desired activities or outcomes. Whilst existing mechanisms offer seemingly attractive, albeit contested, ways of pursuing the former, we particularly question their effectiveness in achieving the latter goal. We observe among our respondents a wide variety of intended impacts and mechanisms for pursuing them, and argue that this renders any monitoring and reward system based on achieved outcomes prone to complexity and lack of comprehensiveness. By contrast, a high level of consistency in motivations—across institutions and disciplines—points to a focus on the process of knowledge exchange as a far more effective driver. We identify a key role for university managers in fostering academic engagement in knowledge exchange. Ultimately, however, we conclude that effective incentivization is likely to depend on the replacement of impact-based evaluations with a new, process-based approach."