Between relevance and excellence? Research impact agenda and the production of policy knowledge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recent moves towards incentivising ‘impact’ within the research funding system pose a growing challenge to academic research practices, charged with producing both scientific, and social impact. This article explores this tension by drawing on interviews with sixty-one UK academics and policymakers involved in publicly-funded knowledge exchange initiatives. The experiences of the interviewed academics point to a functional separation of academic practices into three distinct types: producing traditional research, translating research, and producing policy-oriented research. These three types of practices differ in terms of both the epistemic qualities of the produced knowledge and its legitimacy as valid academic work. Overall, the article argues that the relationship between relevance and excellence of research within the impact agenda is characterised by simultaneous contradiction and co-dependence, leading to hybridisation of academic knowledge production and expansion of the boundaries of policy expertise into the traditionally-academic spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-905
Number of pages11
JournalScience and Public Policy
Issue number6
Early online date1 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • impact agenda
  • policy knowledge
  • expertise
  • REF
  • science
  • policymaking


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