Usable, in?use, and useful research: A 3U framework for demonstrating practice impact

Jan 3rd, 2020 | By | Category: RSS Feed

Abstract

In addition to innate curiosity, many of us also see scientific research as a way of making the world a better place. There has been a drive to better understand and observe the practical and societal impact of research, led by researchers seeking to find meaning and purpose in their work, as well as government agencies responsible for allocating research funding to maximum effect. Despite a wealth of guidance from researchers discussing impact and agencies evaluating impact, making practice impact visible and demonstrable remains arduous to researchers because it appears to be possible only at the end of a long and winding pathway to impact. This article presents a framework for demonstrating practice impact as it is being realized progressively, rather than only at the end of the pathway. It identifies usable, in?use, and useful research outputs, with each having cumulative and demonstrable practice impact. Our analyses of existing impact evaluation guidelines and top?ranked impact cases submitted to the Research Excellence Framework 2014 showed that all three forms of impact can be demonstrated and are recognized as practice impact. Framing impact in terms of “use” inherently connects the perspectives of researchers and beneficiary users and positions users as co?producers of impact rather than passive objects and recipients of research. The 3U framework is descriptive as well as prescriptive. It identifies impact indicators for each form of impact. It also indicates the necessary actions for strengthening impact. When applied iteratively, the 3U framework facilitates the identification and pursuit of new research questions that will further solidify a research endeavour’s practice impact.

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