Perceptions, motivations and behaviours towards 'research impact': a cross-disciplinary perspective
thesisposted on 25.10.2016, 08:29 authored by Lesley Chikoore
In recent years, the UK higher education sector has seen notable policy changes with regard to how research is funded, disseminated and evaluated. Important amongst these changes is the emphasis that policy makers have placed on disseminating peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles via Open Access (OA) publishing routes e.g. OA journals or OA repositories. Through the Open Science agenda there have also been a number of initiatives to promote the dissemination of other types of output that have not traditionally been made publicly available via the scholarly communication system, such as data, workflows and methodologies. The UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 introduced social/economic impact of research as an evaluation measure. This has been a significant policy shift away from academic impact being the sole measure of impact and has arguably raised the profile of public engagement activities (although it should be noted that public engagement is not equivalent to social/economic impact, but is an important pathway to realising such impact). This exploratory study sought to investigate the extent to which these recent policy changes are aligned with researchers publication, dissemination and public engagement practices across different disciplines. Furthermore, it sought to identify the perceptions and attitudes of researchers towards the concept of social/economic impact. The study adopted a mixed-methods approach consisting of a questionnaire- based survey and semi-structured interviews with researchers from a broad range of disciplines across the physical, health, engineering, social sciences, and arts and humanities across fifteen UK universities. The work of Becher (1987) and Becher & Trowler (2001) on disciplinary classification was used as an explanatory framework to understand disciplinary differences. The study found evidence of a lack of awareness of the principle of OA by some researchers across all disciplines; and that researchers, in the main, are not sharing their research data, therefore only the few who are doing so are realising the benefits that have been championed in research funders policies. Moreover, the study uncovered that due to the increased emphasis of impact in research evaluation, conflicting goals between researchers and academic leaders exist. The study found that researchers, particularly from Applied and Interdisciplinary (as opposed to Pure) disciplinary groups felt that research outputs such as articles published in practitioner journals were most appropriate in targeting and making research more accessible to practitioners, than prestigious peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. The thesis argues that there is still more to learn about what impact means to researchers and how it might be measured. The thesis makes an overall contribution to knowledge on a general level by providing greater understanding of how researchers have responded to the impact agenda. On a more specific level, the thesis identifies the effect of the impact agenda on academic autonomy, and situates this in different disciplinary contexts. It identifies that it is not only researchers from Pure disciplines who feel disadvantaged by the impact agenda , but also those from Interdisciplinary and Applied groups who feel an encroachment on their academic autonomy, particularly in selecting channels to disseminate their research and in selecting the relevant audiences they wish to engage with. Implications of the study's findings on researchers, higher education institutions and research funders are highlighted and recommendations to researchers, academic leaders and research funders are given.
Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
- Business and Economics