From engagement to impact? Articulating the public value of academic research

Richard Watermeyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (SciVal)


This paper reviews recent culture-change in British higher education (HE) and an increasing emphasis on academics evidencing, in meaningful and measurable ways, the value and contribution of their work to national societies. Discussion focuses on what is purported to be a shift from a focus on academics rationalizing the benefits of their work in terms of public engagement to a more contentious signifier of research worth, “impact”. The primary argument herein is that an impact agenda, framed in terms of assessment and by the upcoming Research Excellence Framework 2014, has not eclipsed an engagement initiative for HE in the UK but actually provided greater credence and tacit momentum. Where public engagement “pre-impact” was viewed by sections of the academic community as frivolous, faddish and tokenistic, it is now elevated as an integral component of impact-capture work and in plotting the pathways between research producer and research intermediary/end-user/collaborator. Where “impact” is a statement of the value of academic work, engagement is the method of its articulation and the means by which impacts are mobilized.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-130
Number of pages15
JournalTertiary Education and Management
Issue number2
Early online date30 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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