Measuring the impact of research

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 2 February 2010



Marsh, R. (2010), "Measuring the impact of research", On the Horizon, Vol. 18 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Measuring the impact of research

Article Type: Note from the publisher From: On the Horizon, Volume 18, Issue 1

Hardly a day goes by when an article or viewpoint is not brought to our attention that highlights the need to review how research can be more effectively connected to real-world activity and policy setting. This debate has not emerged as a result of the current economic crisis, but it has certainly been brought into sharper focus by it. We are challenged to consider the role of research in contributing to the failures in our financial systems and leadership or, at the very least, in its inability to direct business, economies and societies away from it. So the question remains do we batten down the hatches and hope this particular squall passes over head so that we can return to the processes and systems that we know, or should we use this as an opportunity to find a better solution to an age-old and, unfortunately, increasing problem of disconnection between the world of research and scholarship and the world of practice and policy formation?

Emerald, alongside other scholarly publishers, is an intermediary or “translator”, capturing, evaluating, organising and disseminating research output. The scholarly publishing process has been established for centuries and has successfully managed the process of highlighting important research to the wider world, and this has, in turn, contributed to the development of business, science, industry and culture.

Research can be used in a number of different contexts: knowledge (contributing to further research); practice; teaching; public policy; and societal. Research is often part of a continuum and rarely is there a direct cause and effect; changes will be seen over a long period of time, rather than immediately.

In order to capture some of the different impacts of research at different points along the continuum, Emerald is planning to focus on developing a framework to highlight all the important ways of evaluating research. We are proposing to explore the following areas:

  • Knowledge (further research). Research will contribute to the body of knowledge. This can be assessed through citation impact factors and usage impact factors, as well as the implications for research identified in the research conclusions.

  • Practice. Industry and business leaders, practitioners and consultants in both public and private sector organisations are all affected by the outcomes of research. This can be assessed through the implications for practice that are identified in the research conclusions. Evidence that research has been applied successfully in industry and business practice can be gathered to demonstrate usefulness.

  • Teaching. Students and faculty in a classroom setting are direct consumers of research. The impact of research in teaching can be assessed through the clarity of the conclusions to aid learning and the provision of case studies and examples.

  • Public policy. Civil servants, politicians, decision-makers in public bodies, institutions and charities draw on research to shape their policies and practice. Implications for policy making and society can be identified in the research conclusions. Evidence that research has influenced public policy successfully can be gathered to demonstrate usefulness.

  • Society. Cultural norms and accepted ways of thinking can and should be challenged by the outputs of research. This will include the impact on the environment (at micro and macro levels), ability to influence social responsibility in industry, business and public policy, and the incorporation of social values as well as financial values in research outputs. These can also be assessed through implications for society in the research conclusions.

Emerald has recently opened the debate amongst its journal and book series editors. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and appears to reflect a groundswell of opinion that research impact needs to be measured in a variety of ways in addition to citation. We would very much like to hear your thoughts, too.

Through talking to our communities, we are delighted to announce that we have introduced a separate field in the structured abstract that highlights social implications.

If you would like to make any suggestions for shaping a framework to evaluate impact or if you have any general comments, please do get in touch. Feel free to e-mail me directly at

Rebecca MarshPublishing Director, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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