Overton data used in report analysing UK universities’ research impact

A new study commissioned by UKRI and Research England uses Overton to better understand the policy impact of research submitted to REF

UK Research and Innovation and Research England commissioned RAND EuropeElectric Data Solutions and Different Angles to undertake analysis to better understand the societal impact of research from British universities, as well as the REF’s role in supporting analysis of this impact.

They used Overton’s data to analyse the research submitted as part of REF 2021’s ‘impact case studies’, to understand “how the impact described related to government economic and industrial strategies” and also to better understand impact pathways.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a system for assessing the quality of research produced in UK universities. Its goal is to ensure accountability for public investment in research and demonstrate the positive outcomes of this investment. It also serves as a method of benchmarking universities and is an important reputational tool.

Their results showed UK universities’ positive contributions on the global stage, as they found “significant impacts on society and the economy” in the UK and across the world, in areas as diverse as “intelligence and cyber security” and “language and linguistics”.

Their report includes some interesting analysis in areas such as the characteristics of research impact – they established for example that the average time lag from the beginning of research to the end of impact is around a decade. They also explored topics like collaboration to understand whether interdisciplinary research is more likely to be impactful. They found that impact achieved in areas of ‘societal challenges’ were more likely to be based on interdisciplinary research though impact achieved in the field of medicine relied less on interdisciplinary research.

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