Impact or No Impact

The University of Glasgow is conducting a warm-up rehearsal for the UK’s Research Excellence Framework exercise; this particular administrative nightmare is rolling down upon us in 2014, so far as we can anticipate (the ConDem coalition may decide not to fund it at all, or delay it, or change course in some other unpredictable way). As part of this rehearsal exercise (and ultimately as part of the REF itself), we’re supposed to tell our evaluators about our “impact” — “any identifiable benefit to or positive influence on the economy, society, public policy or services, culture, the environment or quality of life. Please note that this definition does not include impact through intellectual influence on scientific knowledge and academia.”
You may note that this definition is so slanted toward particular fields of endeavour that it might as well be called “Bonus points for STEM + Policy-Oriented Fields, Kick in the Teeth for Arts.” So be it.
Anyway, I’m racking my brain trying to think of something I’ve done since 2008 that might fit that definition. With a looser time frame, I could point to the Lessig Read-a-Thon and the genesis of LibriVox (I’m not taking credit for the work that Hugh did on LibriVox, far from it!, but this is the closest I can come to the kind of “impact” for which I’m being asked). Remembering that the people who will be evaluating me have no sentimental attachment to me such as might be swayed by avowals of how important I’ve been as a teacher or intellectual influence, can anybody think of an “impact” I’ve had on “the economy, society, public policy or services, culture, the environment or quality of life” in 2008 or later? I’m flat stumped, myself.

3 thoughts on “Impact or No Impact

  1. I’ve been there! The whole exercise has got steadily more intrusive and has moved farther and farther away from the real aims of education. It’s hard to avoid the impression that it’s deliberately geared to make life difficult for the Arts and Humanities. Good luck!

  2. It’s no easier for scientists, since so much scientific research goes on before anything ever gets to have any impact on the economy/society etc etc. Fortunately I am sufficiently lowly that I’m exempt from all this.

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