Measuring research impact in Oxford BRC-3 and beyond: A conversation with Wilfred Mijnhardt

The measurement of research impact (that is, the influence our research has beyond academia – for example on patient outcomes, health service productivity, public understanding of science, economic growth or environmental sustainability) is a hot topic. Impact metrics (of various kinds) are used to compare the performance of higher education institutions against each other (e.g. via impact case studies, which will make up 25% of the total scores in the next Research Excellence Framework) and also by Treasury to assess the overall performance of the higher education sector. Our performance on these metrics will influence our position in academic league tables such as UK and World University Rankings. Impact metrics are increasingly used to monitor the progress of multi-stakeholder research collaborations such as BRCs, CLAHRCS and AHSNs – all established with the goal of strengthening the translational pipeline and building partnerships with industry, clinical services, policymakers and patients.

In addition to making sure we perform well against existing impact metrics, it is our duty as academics to engage critically with the science of metrics – and, where appropriate, seek to challenge metrics that are invalid, incomplete or which serve as perverse incentives. We need to be proactive in asking questions such as: What impact beyond academia do we want our research to have – and what kind of impact metrics might help achieve this goal? In this seminar, we will consider types of impact, current approaches to the measurement of impact both in the UK and elsewhere. How are researchers framing the science-society relationship, how they are creating and disseminating knowledge beyond academically-focused outlets such as journals and conferences? What metrics can be used for measuring impact success – and what do these metrics say about what is valued and incentivised? What tensions are generated by current UK and international practices and evolving stakeholder expectations in relation to impact metrics? Most importantly, what kinds of strategic and transformational opportunities are being created by the changing landscape of increased responsible research and innovation – and to what extent can we can strategically anticipate (rather than find ourselves controlled by) these opportunities?

The seminar is being delivered by Professor Wilfred Mijnhardt, Policy Director the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University, an international expert on the ‘big data’ of research impact assessment. He brings 20 years of experience in research policies and institutional development, has produced executive training programmes for international Deans of Research via Chartered Association of Business Schools and European Federation for Management Development /Europena Academy of Management on this topic. He is also an international adviser on the Advisory Group for the ‘Partnerships’ cross-cutting theme for the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

Professor Wilfred Mijnhardt is joined in conversation by Dr Pavel Ovseiko (Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford) and Dr Alexander Rushforth (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford). Dr Pavel Ovseiko will outline the current approaches to the measurement of research impact in the UK and their implications for the national and regional innovation systems in the context of the changing social contract between science and society. Dr Alexander Rushforth will critically reflect on the best UK and international practices in research impact assessment, explore strategic opportunities to maximise the value of biomedical research for society as a whole, and lead a discussion to formulate agendas for future research.