There are few academics who are interested in doing research that simply has no influence on anyone else in academia or outside. Some perhaps will be content to produce ‘shelf-bending’ work that goes into a library (included in a published journal or book), and then over the next decades ever-so-slightly bends the shelf it sits on. But we believe that they are in a small minority. The whole point of social science research is to achieve academic impact by advancing your discipline, and (where possible) by having some positive influence also on external audiences – in business, government, the media or civil society.
For the past year a team of academics based at the London School of Economics, the University of Leeds and Imperial College have been working on a ‘Research Impacts’ project aimed at developing precise methods for measuring and evaluating the impact of research in the public sphere. We believe the our data will be of interest to all UK universities how to better capture and track the impacts of their social science research and applications work.
Part of our task is to develop guidance for colleagues interested in this field. In the past, there has been no one source of systematic advice on how to maximize the academic impacts of your research in terms of citations and other measures of influence. And almost no sources at all have helped researchers to achieve greater visibility and impacts with audiences outside the university. Instead researchers have had to rely on informal knowledge and picking up random hints and tips here and there from colleagues, and from their own personal experience.
This Handbook remedies this key gap and opens the door to researchers achieving a more professional and focused approach to their research from the outset. It provides a large menu of sound and evidence-based advice and guidance on how to ensure that your work achieves its maximum visibility and influence with both academic and external audiences. As with any menu, readers need to pick and choose the elements that are relevant for them. We provide detailed information on what constitutes good practice in expanding the impact of social science research. We also survey a wide range of new developments, new tools and new techniques that can help make sense of a rapidly changing field.
We hope that this Handbook will be of immediate practical value for academics, lead researchers, research staff, academic mentors, research lab leaders, chairs and research directors of academic departments, and administrative staff assisting researchers or faculty team leaders in their work.