My plan to create a really strong impact story

  1. Be clear about our submissions focus. This is easy in our case as we’ve had a very strong focus around career development and career guidance throughout the Centre’s history but we probably need to be even more clearly focused.
  2. Go through everything that we’ve ever published and look at citation rates and Google hits for anything that we think might be important or influential.
  3. Make a list of everyone who has funded us.
  4. Identify any key policy initiatives that we were particularly instrumental in e.g. where we contributed to white papers, evaluated pilots or got questions asked in parliament.
  5. Create a brief summary of our overall impact over the period. What have been our biggest successes but also what are the indicators that we are an important part of the landscape.
  6. Try and identify a couple of eye catching big stories.
  7. Write it into the REF format.
  8. Show it to anyone who will read it.
  9. Rewrite it.
  10. Hope for the best.

What counts as impact?

Tomorrow I’m supposed to be giving a presentation on demonstrating “impact” under the Research Excellence Framework (REF). In essence the REF is an end of term report for university departments. Have you been doing really well – yes? Four stars to you!

Most of the work for the REF is already done and dusted. People basically know that they’ve got to have published lots of things in “good” journals since 2008. If you haven’t done this you are probably, like me, frantically trying to publish something in somewhere that seems like it might carry some weight and get you a gold star or two. This aspect of the competition is pretty much like the predecessor competition the RAE. However, to keep it interesting the powers that be have thrown in an extra bit about “impact”. I’m hopeful that this is going to be good for me and iCeGS as while we rarely get time to publish in academic journals we are pretty active in the worlds of careers policy and practice. But, what exactly does impact mean?

I guess the best way to understand this is to go to the source. Thankfully HEFCE are pretty helpful and have put a set of impact case studies on their website. The one that is most useful to me is the Social Work and Social Policy one. So what do I notice:

  • The case studies are of departments or research groups rather than individuals. Although many of the examples are actually small clusters based around a lead individual.
  • They discuss research that has been undertaken over the long term and not just the REF period.
  • They demonstrate the academic impact of the body of work in terms of citations.
  • They list research funding and funders with amounts.
  • They discuss how the research moved from the academic ghetto into the wider world. In particular they list organizations (including government departments) that benefited from the work and describe how they benefited.

If you do a Google search for “REF impact” you will find that lots of universities have prepared documents advising staff on how to create a REF Impact case study. Many of them have futher examples that researchers can draw on. The University of Bath have even gone as far as to produce a film about impact. In fact the University of Bath’s portal on this subject is pretty useful .

Personally I find the often discussed difference between “academic impact” and “non-academic impact” a little puzzling. It sort of means two things simultaneously – on one hand it essentially means that academic impact is confined to things that are published in proper academic journals. In other words academic impact is the ability to satisfy both publishers and peer reviewers. On the other hand “non-academic impact” is the whole of the rest of everything in the world (for normal academic purpose this means the things that don’t matter). Secondly this distinction is used to differentiate between things that make a difference to people’s lives and things that don’t. On one hand it I think that we should be skeptical of research which does not make a difference to anyone, anywhere. On the other it is clearly much easier for some research to make a difference than others. When I worked on Second World War literature or eighteenth century industry it was far harder for me to have an impact than it is in my current research. The kind of research that iCeGS do is necessarily relevant to policy and practice because it is highly influenced by who funds it. In essence we give attention to the issues of the day, because government and other organizations fund us to help them to think issues relating to careers and education policy through. On the downside this makes us less “academic” but on the upside it makes it easier for us to evidence impact.

Will all of this make a difference in the REF? Who knows, but like everyone else we are going to do our best to play the game. 


I’ve never been a huge fan of LinkedIn. It is a bit clunky and hasn’t been somewhere that I’ve found particularly active networks in the past. However I’ve found myself suggesting LinkedIn as a solution for a few groups that I’m involved in recently. Basically this is for two reasons.

1) Most people already have a (semi-inactive) account on LinkedIn which they have collected a network on already. They don’t know what to do with it, but there is some social capital sitting there and they have already conquered the interface.

2) LinkedIn makes the creation of groups and walled gardens pretty easy. While I’d rather not work in silos others seem nervous about the openess of something like Twitter.

So I’m now becoming a LinkedIn enthusiast.

Some LinkedIn resources

What is LinkedIn?

LinkedIn for Dummies

How to use LinkedIn groups


Information about the National Careers Service launch

It all seems to be happening in the world of careers this week. Following on from yesterday’s announcement of guidance for schools, today I’ve been sent information on the launch of the National Careers Service.

It will launch as planned on the 5th April. An early version of the website and branding is now available at

For more information see the Launch Toolkit for Stakeholders.

Commentary on the new Statutory Guidance on Careers Work in Schools

As I posted earlier this morning the new statutory guidnace has been published. My early assessment of it is that is does not really provide very much guidance at all. Rather it provides a very broad discussion of how school based careers work might be delivered with very few details and not much that any pupil or parent could use as a basis for saying that they are not getting what they are entitled to.

Thankfully the sector has been quick to respond. Tony Watts has prepared a policy commentary for Careers England which analyses the new guidance in detail. Meanwhile Anthony Barnes has produced a commentary for schools on CEGNET. Both of these are extremely useful if you are trying to understand what careers work in schools is going to look like going forward.

In essence this means that the ball is now in schools’ courts. Schools need to decide how they are going to support young people to think about themselves, their place in the world and the process of moving from school to learning and work. Schools have been in the habit of looking to government to help to set the frame for their approach to questions like this in the past. It seems clear that from here on in they are on their own.

New government guidance on careers work in school

The Government have just released the long awaited guidance on careers work in schools.


I haven’t had a chance to go through it properly yet, but the intial comments from others are that it pretty weak. I know that Tony Watts has been working with Careers England on a commentary which will analyse it in detail and I’ll post a link to that as soon as it is available.

Steven Jones’ presentation on the UCAS personal statement

I went to an excellent presentation the other day organised by the Education and Employers Taskforce. In it Steven Jones of the University of Manchester presented the research that he had been doing on what students write in their UCAS personal statements. 

I’ll leave the presentation to speak for itself below, but in summary what Steven found was that the space that is offered to potential students to distinguish themselves beyond the raw grades that are provided actually serves the purpose of sending out a strong message about the social background of the individual and allowing young people to display the capital that their upbringing gives them access to (social capitial, financial capital, cultural capital). In effect this results in the UCAS statement exacerbating existing social inequalities.

In addition Steven’s presentation suggested that those young people from more privaledged backgrounds are also able to draw in more advice and guidance in the drafting of their personal statement and that this continues to increase inequalities.

The materials from the presentation are all on the Education and Employers Taskforce website. A film of Steven’s presentation from YouTube follows.