The Australian Government recognises the importance of research, science and innovation for increasing productivity and wellbeing to achieve long term economic growth for the Australian community and to enable Australia to engage effectively with current and future national and global challenges.  Research is a key contributor to improving Australia’s productivity over the longer term.1

There is an increasing focus on showcasing or measuring the societal benefits from research, and a need for better coordination in reporting and promoting the impact of these research outcomes. This will become increasingly important in a tight fiscal government environment where returns on investment in research will need to be demonstrated in terms of environmental, economic and social impact. For these reasons and others, key stakeholders including government, industry and the community require more information on the benefits derived from investment in Australian research activities.

A working group was established in 2012 to develop a common understanding of approaches, terminology and reporting of research impact.

The following agencies established a working group to develop a common understanding of approaches, terminology and reporting of research impact:

  • Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Studies
  • Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation
  • Australian Research Council
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
  • Defence Science and Technology Organisation
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • National Measurement Institute

Since August 2012, a number of meetings have been held with a focus on:

  • Understanding current arrangements for planning, monitoring and evaluating research impact within the above mentioned agencies.
  • Demonstrating to key stakeholders (government, industry and community) the return on investment from Australian research activities (both retrospective and prospective).
  • Establishing a common understanding of the latest developments, nationally and internationally in research impact assessment.
  • Establishing a set of overarching principles and a common understanding of language that underpins the measurement of research impact, and achieves a common use of terminology.
  • Identifying possible common data requirements that can be used to verify research impact outcomes.
  • Considering new data as measures of impact.
  • Identifying cost effective and efficient methodologies for reporting.
  • Sharing experiences in communication strategies to promote research impact to key stakeholders.

The following principles have been developed as the result of the meetings.  


The Definition of Research Impact 

Research impact is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to the economy, society, culture, national security, public policy or services, health, the environment, or quality of life, beyond contributions to academia.


Impact Measurement Principles 

The working group developed the following principles to underpin the measurement of research impact.

  • Acknowledge that excellent research underpins impact.
  • Promote understanding through use of common language and terms associated with research impact.
  • Respect the diversity in research disciplines/sectors in demonstrating research impact.
  • Cooperate in developing a set of common, cost effective and efficient parameters for data collection and reporting.
  • Adopt a consultative approach with stakeholders in regards to implementing impact reporting in support of future research investments.
  • Encourage, recognise and reward positive behaviour in planning, monitoring and evaluating research impact.


Operational Principles

These principles offer high level guidance on operational considerations for implementing the measures and reporting of research impact.


  • Set early and clear expectations on research impact against which progress can be monitored.
  • Develop capability to effectively collect data and undertake impact monitoring and evaluation.
  • Identify appropriate data elements for effective assessment of research impact.


  • Set up reporting requirements that are appropriate to the scale of investment.
  • Accommodate multi-disciplinary and collaborative research through flexibly designed impact reporting appropriate for its intended outcomes.


  • Utilise planned performance data elements and metrics to monitor and evaluate outcomes.
  • Consider any learnings from retrospective case study analyses, evaluations and reviews.


  • Appreciate and value both intended and serendipitous research outcomes.
  • Regularly communicate research impact to stakeholders.
  • Be aware of Whole of Government agendas for example Open Access and Open Data.



Consistent with the Impact Principles – the Working Group developed a glossary to assist with a common understanding of language that underpins the measurement of research impact.

PDF Format (367KB) - Word Format (29KB)


Research Impact Pathway Table

The working group has developed the Research Impact Pathway Table which is consistent with the ARC’s Impact Principles. The Table provides high level examples from the research pipeline and indicates where they would normally sit on the pathway to impact.

In developing your ‘Impact Statement’ in an ARC grant application form you should consider examples (or illustrations) from your research plan representing all columns of the Research Impact Pathway Table. Please ensure your chosen examples that demonstrate both the expected Outcomes and Benefits over time are included in the Statement.

Research Impact Pathway Table – PDF Format (195KB) – Word Format (23KB)


1 Focusing Australia's Publicly Funded Research Review—Maximising the Innovation Dividend Review Key Findings and Future Directions.