Progressing research impact assessment: A ‘contributions’ approach

Sarah Morton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is an increasing interest in demonstrating the outcomes from research for the purposes of learning, accountability, or to demonstrate the value of research investments. However, assessing the impact of social science research on policy and practice is challenging. The ways in which research is taken up, used, and reused in policy and practice settings means that linking research processes or outputs to wider changes is difficult, and timescales are hard to predict. This article proposes an empirically grounded framework for assessing the impact of research—the Research Contribution Framework. A case study approach was adopted to explore the nature of research impact and how it might be assessed. Findings were used to design, develop, and test a framework to assess the contribution of research to relevant areas of policy and practice and to articulate wider benefits. The framework has been adapted from contribution analysis, using the idea of ‘contribution’ to help explain the ways research is taken up and used to influence policy and practice. The framework allows for a focus on the roles of research users, and examines both processes and outcomes. It is argued that this approach gets round some of the common problems in assessing impact. It provides a method of linking research and knowledge exchange to wider outcomes whilst acknowledging and including contextual factors that help or hinder research impact. It is practical, balancing robustness with feasibility. It is adaptable for a wide range of content, types of impact assessment, and purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-419
Number of pages15
JournalResearch Evaluation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2015


  • assessment
  • cont
  • impact
  • research


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