Yesterday I attended a really interesting workshop on “Qualitative Inquiry and Research Impact” run by Professor Lisa Given with assistance from colleagues Becky Willson and Denise Winkler. An interesting group of about 20 researchers and research administrators attended. It didn’t take long to work out who was who 😉 The object of the day was to workshop the possible role of qualitative inquiry in assessing research impact. We worked from a starting point of the issues raised by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education in Assessing the wider benefits arising from university based research: Discussion paper.
The day was broken into four parts. In the first we looked at research impact – although really it is not impact in the traditional sense (i.e. not journal or article impact factors), but benefit, and how benefit is defined and understood in the discussion paper and the sector and beyond into the community (which often got reduced to commerce and industry). The second session revolved around the ways formal qualitative inquiry research methods might contribute to research impact assessment. Then we addressed something all researchers may need to focus on more in the future – that is how to communicate the benefit of research as a part of research assessment and also to stakeholders outside of the academy. Finally we examined the criteria proposed in the Discussion Paper to assess impact/benefit: reach, significance, contribution and validation. It was an interesting day and the discussion was thought provoking and good humoured tho there was not consensus about the way forward. Lisa will be doing further research on this, and I look forward to the reports with interest.