Research impact definitions

ACU uses the ARC’s definitions of research impact and research end-user, as found in the ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment 2018–19 National Report:

Research impact 

Research impact is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.

Research end-user

A research end-user is an individual, community or organisation external to academia that will directly use or directly benefit from the outputs, outcomes or results of the research.

Examples of research end-users include businesses, communities and community organisations, governments and non-government organisations.

Specific exclusions of research end-users are:

  • other higher education providers (including international universities)
  • organisations that are affiliates, controlled entities or subsidiaries (such as Medical Research Institutes) of a higher education provider
  • equivalents (international or domestic) of the above exclusions.

Types of research impact

Following are four broad categories of research impact. These categories, together with examples, are in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) Impact Toolkit.

Instrumental impact

Impacts on policy and practice.

Conceptual impact

Impacts on knowledge, understanding and attitudes.

Capacity building

Impacts on the ability of researchers to conduct similar work in the future.

Enduring connectivity

Impacts on the existence and strength of networks of people and organisations who understand and can make use of the research.

Examples of research impact

Following are summaries of research impact submitted by ACU and other universities to the ARC Engagement and Impact Assessment 2018. Further examples can be found in the ARC Data Portal (Impact Studies).

Health sciences

A 2011 state-wide WoundsWest (WW) prevalence survey conducted across all 86 WA public hospitals provided a rich source of data and identified that major wound issues existed regarding potentially preventable pressure injuries. Based on these results, WW worked with the WA Department of Health to devise and implement several state-wide strategies for public hospitals. The surveys also provided extensive data on the epidemiology of wounds in WA and informed a collaborative research project with Silver Chain to conduct a clinical trial into skin tears, which had significant economic and therapeutic impact on skin tear prevention and management outcomes for elderly Australians (extracted from Curtin University of Technology’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 42).
The implementation of nurse-led protocols developed and evaluated through the Quality in Acute Stroke Care Trial significantly reduced death and dependency following a stroke. The protocols improved approaches to managing fever, hyperglycaemia and swallowing difficulties in the first 72 hours of hospitalisation following stroke, reducing mortality and disability. This evidence resulted in changes to policy, guidelines and clinical practice and wide adoption of the protocols. An economic evaluation also demonstrated potential to reduce healthcare costs. These protocols have been adopted by healthcare and supporting services in Australia and have informed the development of guidelines in the United Kingdom (extracted from ACU’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 42).
This work has developed an evidence-base to facilitate hepatitis C elimination. The research programs have focused on hepatitis C epidemiology and natural history, the identification of factors facilitating enhanced hepatitis C prevention, and the evaluation of strategies to improve hepatitis C testing, linkage to care and treatment. The findings have been translated into real-world settings and more effective interventions being delivered at scale to people living with hepatitis C virus infection, people who inject drugs, people who are incarcerated and men who have sex with men. These initiatives have changed the way effective programs are delivered and have had a major impact on clinical practice and health policy both in Australia and internationally (extracted from the University of New South Wales’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 42).


Find & Connect enables care leavers and counselling services to access national records on family separation cases for children identified in the ‘Forgotten Australians Report’ (2004). Historical research led by ACU Professor Shurlee Swain resulted in the first comprehensive collation of care records into one resource for these care leavers. A series of collaborative, cross-sector workshops was run nationally by the ACU team to optimise use of the resource. This resource, available via an online platform developed by University of Melbourne partners, has transformed how care leavers and their families can access and understand records relating to their personal histories. The resource and workshops have enabled provision of better informed emotional and psychological support services (extracted from ACU’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 43).
ACU's Institute of Child Protection Studies has significantly improved child-centred professional practice in human and family services support for children of families experiencing homelessness. The Kids Central Toolkit and targeted training, based on research led by the Institute, provides information and resources for support services to better understand and address children’s perceptions of safety, informing appropriate responses. Training workshops in the use of the Toolkit have been delivered by the ICPS directly to approximately 182 officers across 52 organisations. The resource has improved child-safety approaches nationally for cross-sector organisations such as Relationships Australia (SA) and the VACCA and is embedded in ACT Community Services training guidelines (extracted from ACU’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 44).
The work of University of Melbourne researchers at the Children’s Bioethics Centre (located within Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital) has led to the creation of guidelines around key ethical issues in paediatric care, furthering the protection of children and informing and facilitating ethical deliberation and consultation between parents and clinicians. Researchers also run a referral service for advising on ethical issues which is widely used globally. Such consultations resolve conflict, facilitate communication and ease moral distress in health care (extracted from the University of Melbourne’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 50).

Social sciences

Over 80,000 Australian children across 2,500 early childhood settings have undertaken learning opportunities guided by the Pedagogical Play-Framework and associated apps integrating play-based pedagogy and intentional teaching. This resolved a conceptual conflict in play-based learning models. The Framework has been disseminated across the early childhood sector nationally, as the central design concept in the Early Language Learning Australia apps. Use of the apps supports attainment of EYLF (2009) outcomes 1, 2, 4 and 5 relating to children’s sense of identity, connection, confidence and effective communication. The Framework has been adapted to other knowledge areas such as STEM education and recommended by a UNESCO report to support sustainability skills learning internationally (extracted from ACU’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 39).
Road trauma costs Australia ~$30 billion each year in economic terms and negatively affects the health and wellbeing of thousands of families and individuals. CARRS-Q has become a leading institution in road safety research and the premier trainer of road safety researchers and practitioners. Through its high-quality research, training and advocacy CARRS-Q has had a major impact on road safety policies and practices at state and national levels, through both government and industry linkages. CARRS-Q has made a major contribution to many of the policy changes that have underpinned the reduction in road fatalities in Queensland, including changes to motorcycle and car driver licensing, cycling safety, policing and rail level crossing safety between 2011 and 2016 (extracted from Queensland University of Technology’s submission to EI 2018 in FoR 52).
Workplace sexual harassment is a persistent, pervasive and costly problem with significant consequences for organisations, individuals and society. Professor Paula McDonald’s research into the causes and consequences of, and effective responses to, workplace sexual harassment has had demonstrable impact. Australian and international human rights, advocacy, government, business and law enforcement organisations and employees have used and/or benefitted from the research. The research has also substantially informed public understanding and shaped organisational and policy responses to sexual harassment. Research findings have been adopted in organisational practice and have directly informed reviews and associated recommendations to redress the harm caused by workplace sexual harassment (extracted from Queensland University of Technology’s submission to EI 2028 in FoR 35).

Benefits of research impact 

Many of the following benefits are discussed in The Research Impact Handbook 2nd Edition (Mark S. Reed 2018).


  • Building strong relationships outside of academia
  • Enhanced credibility within community, government and industry
  • More opportunities to undertake new and relevant funded research with end-users
  • Stronger reputation as an expert in the field
  • Capacity building through shared resources and expertise
  • Wider socialisation of research and outcomes
  • Raising awareness of the importance of committing public funds to support research


  • Creates new business opportunities
  • Generates evidence-based solutions to problems
  • Increases personal impact/influence through collaboration with researchers
  • Makes the ‘world a better place’


  • Brings to life ACU’s third strategic priority, ‘World-leading research, with impact’
  • Better institutional results in impact assessment and ranking exercises

Learn how to achieve research impact

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Page last updated on 16/01/2023

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