What is research impact?

In the Australian context we are currently working with the ARC's definition:

Research impact is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to the economy, society, culture, national security, public policy or services, health, the environment, or quality of life, beyond contributions to academia. (ARC, Research Impact Principles and Framework)

Also useful from the UK Research Excellence Framework exercise is the following:

Impact includes, but is not limited to, an effect on, change or benefit to: the activity, attitude, awareness, behaviour, capacity, opportunity, performance, policy, practice, process or understanding of an audience, beneficiary, community, constituency, organisation or individuals, in any geographic location whether locally, regionally, nationally or internationally. Impact includes the reduction or prevention of harm, risk, cost or other negative effects. ( REF, 2011, Assessment framework and guidance on submissions , p. 26.)

UNE Research Impact Strategy

Achieving research impact is embedded in UNE’s Research Plan 2016–2020 across a range of strategies. Central to UNE’s research plan is our engagement in the creation, development and application of knowledge, with the key aim of influencing the future through excellence in research that impacts society. UNE aims to excel in articulating and implementing ideas that contribute to solving the problems facing our society and global communities.

As an engaged university, we work to ensure that our research is relevant and responsive to the challenges facing us today and insightful towards the future needs of individuals and communities at all levels.

We will continue to build research excellence and develop a culture where achieving impact with our research is an integral part of our academic life that is both rewarding and rewarded, and institutionally acknowledged and supported.

The inaugural UNE Research Impact Strategy 2025 sets-out a number of underpinning principles and priority areas aimed at growing our research capacity and enhancing our approach to translational research in continued partnership with the communities we serve.

Research Impact Snapshots

Anne Pender

Impact statementClarke and Dawe, subjects of Prof. Pender's research

Professor Anne Pender has undertaken significant research that explores the function and nature of Australian satire, analysing the effect and development of Australian literature and culture in the post-imperial era, including the cultural and economic effect of Australian literature and theatre, as it is exported to the world.

Underpinning research includes case-studies of literature, drama and theatre, a range of qualitative research and biographies of 100 writers and performers. This research has culminated in the creation of books, journal articles and peer reviewed, curated websites, articulating the significance of these facets of Australian culture in national and international contexts.


The reach of Prof. Pender’s work is wide, and can be seen in the extensive coverage in the general press, with widespread media coverage across radio, printed and online media, along with physical attendance at lectures and public events. Her work has been exposed to a range of audiences both local and internationally. This research is being used by writers, actors and their audiences, by local and international tertiary students, by secondary teachers and students, as well as by a wide range of users of the the AustLit and National Film and Sound Archive websites.


This research has fundamentally changed the understanding of Australian satire, from its purpose, to its relationship between high and low culture, to the social effect it has on democracy. It has changed the understanding of writing and performance as an enduring source of political engagement, the reach of Australian humour, and explained the complexity of value and mechanisms of culture industries globally.

Image thanks to mrjohnclarke.com

John Paterson: Soft tissue in hard stone

Impact statementA reconstruction of Anomalocaris by Katrina Kenny, University of Adelaide

World-class research undertaken at UNE on the 515 million-year-old Emu Bay Shale fossils from Kangaroo Island has promoted public awareness and understanding on the origins and early evolution of animal life from an Australian perspective. It has also highlighted the importance of conserving and protecting one of the country’s most important natural heritage sites and has helped to kick-start a UNESCO World Heritage Serial Site nomination for the Adelaide Geosyncline, extending from Kangaroo Island to the northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia. The Emu Bay Shale represents a site of exceptional fossil preservation, including soft tissues such as muscle and digestive glands.


This research has resulted in 21 peer-reviewed papers since 2006, which have subsequently led to invitations to write articles for popular science magazines and high school science textbooks, and to be involved with TV documentaries. These outlets have enabled Prof. John Paterson and his team to educate the general public on the importance of these Australian fossils and the role they play in the evolution of early animal life.


Various sites within the Adelaide Geosyncline are globally significant because they represent the best place on Earth to see an almost continuous transition from the beginning of the Ediacaran Period, including some of the first multicellular macro-organisms, through to the dawn of animal life. A preliminary report about the sites is currently in preparation and will form part of a submission to UNESCO to seek inclusion on the ‘World Heritage Tentative List’, which is required at least one year prior to submission of a full World Heritage nomination document.

Image Anomalocaris by Katrina Kenny, University of Adelaide.