Research Design Service: West Midlands

Impact Glossary of Terms


Formal Definition

Informal Definition/tips


An active approach to spreading of research findings to the target audience via determined channels using planned strategies  


Broadcasting findings via all means – peer-reviewed papers; meetings; radio; social media; blogs; podcasts; web sites; newsletters; groups; webinars etc. Can be formal or informal but it’s all about getting the research messages and findings out into the real world using novel ways to communicate. Thinking outside the box to get the message across to audiences who may not normally find out about research.


Knowledge mobilisation (KMb)

The process that paves the way to impact being realised by actively bringing stakeholders together throughout the research cycle to share, respond to, and act upon research plans and findings

Bringing people and groups outside of the academic or clinical team together to encourage collaboration and sharing of information. Connecting research with a wider audience in ways that will encourage adoption of ideas in the wider world. Talking to others, sharing thoughts and findings, it can happen formally or informally, opportunities can arise anywhere, seize the day! KMb can happen in all scenarios, it could be a casual chat with someone or spotting something related to the research in a newsletter and making contact. It can play a vital part in decision-making processes.



The demonstrable contribution that research makes to society and the economy, of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations


The changes made to individuals/groups/organisations as a result of the research. The outcome from the research that will be felt by individuals or society as a whole, how it could change treatment, pathways, experiences, policy or commissioning. Making a difference that could be introducing something new or stopping something that has not worked. How the research is going to affect something/someone/an organisation. We are constantly told by the media about ‘the impact on people’, be that the rising food or energy prices. Research impact is no different – it’s how it will have an effect on something that matters.


Theory of Change

The underlying theory of how a set of activities will achieve the intended results (1)

Can be a visual  or written document which explains how activities, actions and processes will affect or lead to an outcome, - what happens when you go from A to B,  why you do this and what you needed to make that move. It’s about setting out why each stage matters and why.


Logic Model

A graphical representation of the essential elements of a programme, most basic form usually consist of inputs; processes; outputs; outcomes; impact. (2)

Shows a picture of how the research will work - from the initial idea, what you need to do it, how you will do it and what you will achieve. It’s a more simplified flow chart of the Theory of Change and focuses the research team on the processes you will need to go through to achieve your aims. It’s not expected to cover every detail but focuses on the key points of the project that you can then break down into more detailed sections.



Any people or groups who are positively or negatively impacted by a project, initiative, policy or organisation. (3)

Can be individuals or organisations, can be someone directly involved in the question – lived experience of a condition, or indirectly – a carer of that person, a local authority planning social care, a Trust, a CCS, a voluntary organisation, a community group, a religious organisation, a library, a school or a health regulator. The list of potential stakeholders is endless so some wide range thinking is encouraged.


Impact literacy

Impact literacy is the combination of understanding - the identification, assessment, evidencing and articulation of impact endpoints (what); the practices that create impact (how); the successful integration of these by research impact practitioners (who). (4)


If people do not understand what impact is and how it works then it will be difficult for the outcomes of research to create change. Impact literacy is therefore an understanding of all concepts of impact.  An understanding is more likely to achieve the impact that is required rather than thinking of impact in the more traditional terms of academic dissemination. The research team should learn about impact and all of its facets before putting the application together, in the funder’s eyes it’s as important as having an understanding of methods/statistics etc.

Pathway to Impact

Pathways to Impact statements explain how all the activities of the research cycle will increase the likelihood of the intended impact. The impact summary and Pathways to Impact statement in research applications give you the opportunity to show how your research may make a difference, and what you plan to do to help achieve impact (5)


This is the chance in a research application to tell the story of what the impact of your research could achieve and who will be affected. It not just about the end result, a pathway to impact can show how impact could be introduced when designing the application -who you will involve, public contributors, lived experienced individuals, organisations etc. Show the pathway through the project and detail what could be achieved at different stages from start to finish.


Assessing the importance of the research question or topic.

Is this research really required, is it timely, will it be out of date once the project is completed, do the policy makers and commissioners want this or is it outside of their plans and will never be part of them, is it affordable or a pipe dream by the research team, do the people who will be affected by it think it’s the right thing to do or would they suggest another route to achieving change. Literature reviews, systematic or scoping reviews will show if the research has been done before, but does this new research question throw a different light?


Third sector

The part of an economy or society comprising non-governmental and non-profit-making organisations or associations, including charities, voluntary and community groups, cooperatives, etc. (6)


These groups are very important in the research world, look for groups that will enhance your project application and could also form part of the project group. The most important thing is to engage with them as a project is designed and name them on the application, don’t expect them to be enthusiastic in participating in the project if the first contact is made once funding is secured.



Co-design is the approach of actively involving stakeholders in the design process. From end-users to partners, each opinion is invaluable in the creation of something new. (7)

The definition is clear – get people involved when designing a research application. Think about bringing commissioners in, other funders such as local authorities, patient groups, support groups, community groups etc. The insight they will bring will enrich the application, may change the research question/design and may improve the chances of securing funding. The person/group who initiated the research question can learn a lot from other stakeholders when a project is being developed, a new viewpoint could change the direction of the research.



Co-production can take place throughout the project. It may encompass identifying research questions, design and priority setting, governance, co-delivery of research activities, communication of key findings and involvement in knowledge exchange. (8)


Co-production is all about working with groups/individuals who may be collaborators on the project or associated with it. Co-production could involve being part of the project group to oversee governance issues,  advise on how the project will be communicated at all stages from beginning to end, suggesting ways of managing involvement with stakeholders. Co-production demonstrates that the project is not just about the CI/PI and their immediate team but how they as a group will involve others in the research project.



Implementation is the practical process of embedding

knowledge (in the form of usable innovations) into

real-world clinical practice (9)


Research is not just about getting published in the top ranking journals or citations. It’s about how the research is shared in the real world in a timely, cost effective manner that will start to be applied to make a change to the health and well-being of individuals. Traditionally research took many years to get into practice, implementation is all about changing this.

Implementation Science

Implementation science is the study of methods and strategies to promote the uptake of interventions that have proven effective into routine practice, with the aim of improving health. (10)


Implementation scientists use their skills to identify both potential barriers to an intervention being adopted and also to things that will make it happen. They then design processes recognising both facets.


  1. The Policy Institute, Kings College London
  2. The Policy Institute, Kings College London
  3. Simply Stakeholders
  4. Julie Bayley Blog/ Bayley J, Phipps D, 2017
  5. National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE)
  6. Oxford Languages Dictonary
  7. Good Things organisation
  8. UKRI
  9. Charlotte A. Sharp, Laura Swaithes; Benjamin Ellis; Krysia Dziedzic and Nicola Walsh
  10. NIHR ARC South London