"Words like torches in a sea of fog"

Written by Stefano Cisternino

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1 December 2021

Top 6 ways to increase the societal impact of your research

Do you belong to the two-thirds of global academics who care about the societal impact of their work? But perhaps your university does not offer so many opportunities to connect with society, communities, and diverse organisations?

Well, don’t be discouraged. Our six tips are here to help you become a driver of social impact.

As an academic, you produce the most trustworthy type of knowledge. With your research, you help to counter the spread of misinformation and help NGOs and governments make more evidence-based decisions that can increase their effectiveness and positive impact. 

In an ideal world, this knowledge would be accessible for those outside of academia, but that’s not always the case. In this article, I will explore six practical ways to increase your societal impact beyond the university:

  1. Collaborate with NGOs and civil society when developing your research proposal.

One of the purposes of academic research is to drive innovation and serve societal needs, yet too often its application for society is unclear. If your research is to be relevant and useful, then a plan needs to be made as early as the proposal phase of your research. Starting a dialogue with NGOs who are facing a thematic challenge or working with a certain community can help you to identify and serve real research gaps.

In some cases, this is done formally – The University of Tilburg, for example, has set up the Academic Collaborative Centres to foster long-term collaborations that co-create, develop and exchange knowledge with practitioners.

But you do not need to wait for a centre to be established – You can also be proactive. Identify an NGO related to your research focus, identify the project lead, and send a friendly email asking if you can help them. Understanding what evidence they need can target your proposed research to the needs of NGOs. 

  1. Post your research across every social media channel with a catchy caption to appeal to a wider audience.

This is the easiest way to reach a larger and broader audience. If your research is only published in an elite scientific journal, then it’s confined to a very small audience. But sharing a link across Linkedin, Twitter (and even Facebook and Instagram) exponentially increases its reach and its chance of making an impact outside of academic circles. All you need to do is write a short and catchy caption enticing social media audiences to read more – a provocative question could work well. 

  1. Promote your research on podcasts to increase its impact potential.

Podcasts are a great opportunity to delve deeper into your research findings – but it’s a far bigger time investment. Many universities are using podcasts as an engaging medium to disseminate research ideas – and it’s worth sending an email. For example, Instant Coffee by the LSE Middle East Center features conversations with academics, practitioners, artists, activists, and a wide range of other actors from the Middle East. 

  1. Present at public lectures, conferences, and in video discussions to engage directly with a vested audience.

Public lectures are a perfect forum to reach an engaged audience. Everyone there has a vested interest in the subject – making it very easy to reach the right audience. You can identify the right forum with a strategic google of your research focus. Alternatively, if you are an academic with African expertise, why not submit a video about your research on The Association of African Universities TV channel? 

  1. Add your paper to Open Access repositories or journals to make your research more accessible. 

Open-source databases are free, easy to discover and mean your publication can be read by those without the financial means to pay expensive subscriptions. Many open-access repositories do not charge any fees. SSRN is an e-library that has no associated costs to add your research. Likewise, the Open Library of Humanities, a charitable organisation funded by libraries across the world, is committed to publishing without any fees. Choosing an open-source journal is a win-win situation!

  1. Increase your societal impact by adding a summary to the Acume database.

Too often the insights from academic research are lost within a lengthy text or complex formats rather than being clear how-to guide concrete innovations. The format can be too theoretical or inaccessible, which means research is not transformed into societal impact.

Acume is our solution where you can submit a short, practice-oriented summary of your research that then links back to the original paper, so it can be easily found and used by practitioners and policymakers to guide evidence-based decisions. If you want professionals to be able to easily find, quickly read, and ultimately use your research, then get in touch with us and we’ll do the rest!

If you’d like to make a societal impact but don’t have time. Then get in touch with the Acume team and we’ll help to disseminate your research!

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