Section 1: Impact and the media

This section covers:

  1. Challenges from the impact agenda for press offices

  2. Significant impacts that can arise from media engagement




  • Media engagement is well suited to enabling research to be communicated far and wide. However, unless there is evidence of significant benefits for those who engage with your media, this reach has little value as impact, if it is defined as “benefit” (and as a result the reach you measure will have no value in the Research Excellence Framework, REF). 

  • The performance indicators typically used by press offices do not provide the kind of evidence needed to demonstrate impact for exercises like REF, which focuses on longer-term, wider benefits arising from media coverage. For example, circulation and viewing figures provide evidence of reach, but without evidence that there were significant benefits for those who engaged with the material, this reach has very limited value as impact. 

  • Impact claims based on reach alone are open to the critique that those who engaged may not have understood, acted on or benefited in other ways from what they learned, and so there may be no lasting impact from the work, no matter how impressive the coverage was at the time. 

  • As such, media coverage is typically seen only as engagement, or a “pathway” to impact, rather than as an impact in its own right.

  • However, significant impacts can arise from media engagement, for example: 

    • Uptake of research by stakeholder organisations, leading to benefits for them or their clients, patients or others, for example applying findings in new operational contexts, developing new products, treatments or services, or increasing charitable donations

    • Changes in public awareness, attitudes or behaviours, for example leading to museum visits or talking to their doctor about a new treatment option

    • Influencing public policy by raising awareness of research among politicians or civil servants, or by making the researcher more visible and hence more likely to be invited to sit on or provide evidence to committees that guide policy

Watch the video above or read on to find out more…