How can you inject some new enthusiasm and energy into your impact case study for REF 2021?

This post is for those who are writing research impact case studies for the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) and people who are supporting them.

We are a little over a year from the deadline on 31 July 2020 for impact case studies for the next REF . If you are leading an impact case study you may be feeling a little jaded because it does involve a lot of work and it is a big responsibility. For example, if your unit of assessment will have two impact case studies, each one will contribute 12.5% of the total  ‘marks’ for the unit.

Writing a case study is like running a marathon – you need to keep going!

Congratulate yourself on what you have already achieved

You have already done a lot of the work. You have:

*Got to grips (or are getting to grips) with the Funding Bodies’ requirements for case studies

*Drafted your impact case study

*Got most of your underpinning research published

*Got some impact and corroborating sources

But you have run out of steam

Remind yourself that it has been a particularly difficult year in universities with many institutions undergoing restructuring, new expectations from government and uncertainties about the future. And you have probably spent a huge amount of time recently marking exams and in examiners’ meetings.

It is only natural to feel tired. And hopefully, you will have some holiday before long.

But your impact case study is nagging you.

How can you feel motivated to progress your impact case study?

The good news is that there are several things you can do.

Remind yourself why you work in your research area

Ask yourself questions such as:

*What drives me?

*Why is this research important to me?

*Why is my research important to the people who make use of it?

*What do I want the legacy of my research to be in society when I reach the end of my career? What good do I want it to have led to?

*How does this align with my personal values?

Note: I have written about personal values and purpose in an earlier post.

What might be the other possible benefits of the impact case study for me, other than the case study itself?

These might include:

*Further funded research – including (in some cases) from those who have provided testimonials for the impact case study

*More contacts outside academia leading to other opportunities, such as giving a public lecture or sitting on a steering group

*Being better known in the stakeholder community

*More recognition within the university

You are not alone

You may also gain mutual support by meeting up with other impact case study leaders in your unit of assessment/department/university etc to share experiences and gains tips. Just knowing that other people share the same challenges can help a lot.

All these things may help you to gain a different perspective and take a fresh approach.  

During a 35 year career in higher education, Jenny Ames led a productive research group, worked with people from a wide range of subject areas and collaborated with organisations from various sectors. She held the title of Professor at 6 universities, graduated ~25 PhD students and mentored ~25 contract researchers. Jenny was also a senior manager for 8 years and, as Associate Dean and Assistant Pro Vice Chancellor, led on Research Impact at University level. In 2017 was she was made Founding Research Impact Lead for University Alliance.

Since 2017, Jenny has been Director of Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd. Working with universities in the area of Research Impact is an important part of her business. Jenny’s coaching practice focuses on people in career transition. These may be people wondering what to do next or they may have recently moved sector, organisation or job role. Jenny is also particularly interested in coaching academic researchers at all career levels. She is a Member of the Association for Coaching and is currently completing the Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring Practice at Oxford Brookes University. Jenny is also a facilitator on ‘Entrepreneurial Leaders’, a programme for senior university leaders run by the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE).



Author Jenny Ames

Working with Universities, Businesses and their Stakeholders to benefit Society.

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