Oct 17 2017
Since taking over as Vice Principal for research impact and interdisciplinarity in the summer, I have been inspired by how research undertaken across the College is transforming lives.  As we make our case for the impact of our research in the next REF (Research Excellence Framework), I can see that there is much to build on at Royal Holloway; there is also much we can develop further.

September saw the announcement of some initial decisions that will affect the next REF in 2021 and will influence our preparation.  As expected, the importance of ‘Impact’ in the REF is being increased and will account for 25% of the overall outcome for each university.  There will be no separate Impact Template, with sections on impact and interdisciplinarity to be included in the Environment Template.

In the REF, we have to provide a number of case studies to evidence how our research impacts on people, society, and the economy. To strengthen our submission REF impact working group is auditing our case studies, as well as putting in a cross-departmental programme to share expertise, and extend the reach and significance of our case studies.

Ensuring our research makes a difference rarely happens by accident, and its impact can take some time to mature.  At its heart is a culture of collaboration with external partners which can often lead to mutual benefit, changing the way in which external agencies engage with universities.  We can be more agile in anticipating and responding to funding calls, building good interdisciplinary teams from secure disciplinary research. The Social Science Research Day in September showcased this potential, and recent events brought together researchers from all three faculties to consider our contribution to the creative economies, heritage, citizenship and mental health. This is the beginning of a programme that will extend our long-term capacity for interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration within and beyond Royal Holloway, making us better placed to respond effectively to Global Challenges (GCRF) and other research funding opportunities.

As I write, the Higher Education Minister Jo Johnson has announced consultation about a Knowledge Exchange Excellence Framework (KEEF), placing further emphasis on the importance of the ‘research pipeline’, from theoretical and blue skies thinking, through to impact around the world.  However we respond ultimately to these current government initiatives, we will ensure that our research maintains its integrity, realising the values of social responsibility - fairness, creativity, excellence, collaboration and freedom – on which Royal Holloway is built.
Helen Nicholson
Vice Principal (Research Impact and Interdisciplinarity)