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DevelopmentPublic Engagement

Knowledge exchange and impact development programme – why should you get involved?

30 May 2023

Considering how you engage society in your research has become increasingly important in academia. In this blog, second year PhD student, Darius Klibavicius explains how Cardiff’s Knowledge Exchange and Impact Development Programme has given him the tools to begin thinking about creating real world change through his work.

“I will be honest, having worked as a teacher of Ethics and Philosophy in Lithuania for 11 years, I was more concerned about the ethical and robust aspects of educational research when studying for my first MSc in Education, Policy and Society. I had not considered the importance of research leading to direct benefits to society, the economy or environment, and it was only during my second MSc, in Social Science Research Methods, in 2020, that I started thinking about the long-lasting impact and implications of my research on the social reality.

What is research impact and why does it matter?

Research impact is the positive difference your work can make to the world. Impact is important because it helps keep us focused on the overall purpose, rather than the process, of research. By engaging with those who can benefit from our research, it reduces the barriers between those conducting research and those who can apply it to make change in the real world.

Impact also matters because it matters to funders! Impact excellence remains a central goal for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and all grant and fellowship applicants are told to consider how they will or might achieve impact outside their academic community. Welsh Government are a regular funder of Cardiff University research. Last year, I completed a six month internship with them, where I carried out the research evidence review on the strategies and practices that promote the voice of socio-economically disadvantaged learners. During my internship, it became apparent to me that the Government are placing an emphasis on engagement in research to ensure their policies benefit wider society. I wanted to learn more about effective ways of research engagement and dissemination, and then I came across Cardiff’s Knowledge Exchange and Impact (KEI) Development programme on the intranet.

The programme

The KEI programme is run by Cardiff’s Impact and Engagement team and was an exciting opportunity to learn the most creative and time efficient ways to incorporate impact and engagement into my own research. I attended five sessions between January to June 2022, but the 2023 ‘Summer Series’ sessions are open for registration now. The introductory workshops will encompass in person learning and include bespoke interactive activities to help you utilise the skills you learn. The sessions are open to all staff working in a research environment and doctoral students. The series will develop skills in the following areas:

Introducing Knowledge Exchange and Impact
Evaluating the impact of research
Prioritising and engaging beneficiaries in research
Business Performance Improvement: Start-Up/Spin-Out Evaluation and Support
Mock peer review panel
From Research engagement to research communication
Policy Engagement for researchers

Each session is run by either impact and engagement specialists, researchers or organisations who benefit from research. By engaging with the programme, I realised that research impact can be monitored and measured in multiple ways. Initially, postgraduate researchers may assume that impactful research is limited to those presented as Research Excellence Framework (REF) case studies. Nevertheless, cultural, economic, political or societal impact can be achieved through other means such as collaboration with specific stakeholders and the wider community.

So why attend?

A high school headteacher once told me that the senior leadership team was committed to promoting research-informed and evidence-based practice, but they had difficulty accessing or understanding educational research. The KEI programme taught me the importance of researchers clearly communicating findings and their implications to diverse audiences in the most concise and accessible ways. As a social science researcher, I feel a personal and professional responsibility to speak up for those my research impacts so that their voices, stories or insights are heard. As a result of the sessions, I have decided to enhance the discoverability and accessibility of my academic outputs. I have learnt that perhaps the most suitable platform to do so are websites, blogs or social media. Therefore, I am thinking of sharing fragments from my current research into school curriculum reforms with wider audiences.

Overall, the programme gives doctoral students an opportunity to gain more knowledge, skills and confidence in sharing their findings, encouraged networking with like-minded colleagues, including guest speakers, university staff and postgraduate research students.

The Impact and Engagement team focuses not only on the expansion of academic knowledge, but also on strengthening its investment in staff, building research capacity, and recognising the achievements of researchers across the university. I feel the KEI programme has provided me with the instruments to excel in my career and benefit society through my work. Thus, following my PhD, I am open to all the opportunities that will come my way from educational research, practice or policymaking.”