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From Strategy to Practice: the journey towards embedding impact in university research culture

Lead Authors

Ms Lucy Jowett (Research Impact Manager, Northumbria University)


Ms Ruth Hattam (Assistant Director, Research, Northumbria University)

Northumbria University was one of the first universities to develop an organisation-wide research impact strategy. How far have we come since July 2014 when we estimated that it would take two to five years to embed impact? The process of developing the strategy secured senior level buy-in to the impact agenda and articulated how it could support delivery of the University’s vision. It positioned impact as a mechanism for connecting academic activities and support functions including knowledge exchange, pubic engagement, research and innovation. Leadership and expertise provided by professional and academic staff centrally and faculty-based has supported this; raising awareness, engaging and convening academics, providing training, sharing best practice and ‘impact proofing’ processes to support the research lifecycle. Playing impact into university management systems can take time to develop and deploy; successful pathways to impact take time, creativity, resources and commitment. We are not at the end of our journey.

Key Messages

A university-wide impact strategy can provide a focus for leadership and engagement with research impact, connecting agendas and bringing momentum.
Academics’ expectations of resources and support rise when the profile of impact is raised and their needs must be managed effectively whilst recognising that support systems take time to develop.
It’s easy to become REF-focussed but there are a range of different drivers for impact and the focus can shift from impact to other issues within an evolving and complex national and international research context