New website to give researchers a view of the impact of their work

17 Sep 2021

Image: © Rogatnev/Stock.adobe.com

The launch of the new website comes in the same week as an appeal for more interaction between researchers and public policymakers.

A new website and online toolkit have been launched to help inform scientists about the impact their research has on society.

Supported by Cúram, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for medical devices based at NUI Galway, the aim is to help researchers get a more holistic view of the impact of their work, not just in academic circles.

Future Human

The website, Piimpact.com, is looking to create awareness, particularly among early-career scientists and researchers, of the importance of research for the public good. The toolkit was developed on the back of a project focusing on the impact of principal investigators and feedback from almost 600 principal investigators across Ireland.

“This website and toolkit offer a fantastic opportunity to begin to prepare for and plan one’s journey as a successful personal investigator and plan for impact,” Prof Abhay Pandit, scientific director at Cúram, said.

“Moreover, the toolkit offers a novel approach to planning for impact, wherein one can plan one’s collaborations to maximise impact.”

Dr Brendan Dolan, lead postdoctoral researcher on the Principal Investigator Impact project, added that the aim was to “inform and assist new principal investigators” by providing “practical learning tools and resources for learning and professional development training”.

“We wanted to identify the strategies and approaches of our individual scientists, and PIs [principal investigators] in particular, to enhance the impact potential of their work, including how they engage and collaborate with various stakeholders who could benefit from the research undertaken,” Dolan said.

A white paper on preparing medical device scientists for the principal investigator role and impact of their work has been published by the team.

Research and public policy

The launch of Piimpact.com follows the publication of a report earlier this week from The Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and the Irish Research Council (IRC) outlining how research can best inform public policy.

Research for Public Policy: An Outline Roadmap was launched on the back of a webinar series from the organisations, which explored the importance of evidence-based policy and how to harness the expertise of Ireland’s researchers for the benefit of society.

The report recommends the establishment of a national policy challenge platform to enable research organisations to upload summaries of research projects that have policy significance.

It also recommends that Ireland should adapt the European Science Advice Mechanism (SAM) to an Irish context. SAM provides independent, scientific advice directly to European Commissioners to inform their decision-making on policy issues.

A group of stakeholders in the higher education and research sector have backed the report and its recommendations, including Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Universities Association, Campus Engage, Irish Humanities Alliance, the Health Research Board and the Technological Higher Education Association.

Prof Jane Ohlmeyer, chair of the IRC, said “it was evident that all stakeholders were in agreement” that encouraging communication between policymakers and researchers should be “a vital agenda” for Ireland.

“The reality in this country is that, although multiple sources of valuable policy advice exist, the pathway for contributing to policy development remains relatively narrow,” she added.

“We know there is no one single solution but, for the proposals in this report to be successful, we will need the Government, our research institutions and research funders to play their part,” she added.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com