Making an impact with research: (VI) the bonus ball

So you’ve done all the right things. You’ve picked up the ‘Impact’ ball and run with it. In particular, you’ve:

  • developed the capacity to produce silver (grey/gray) literature;
  • developed long-term partnerships with third parties
  • collaborated with your partners in a spirit of (two-way) knowledge exchange

As a result, you’ve optimised the potential for your research to make an impact.

What else can you do? In particular, what else can you do beyond merely incremental steps?

You can do the one thing that nobody seems to do, especially in science. You can get your stuff translated.

Oh, but there’s no need, everybody tells me: English is the lingua franca of science.

Maybe it is. But that ignores the point that both dissemination of research and the business of making of impact requires interaction with a wider range of constituents. They are likely to include (a) people who can understand English well but feel more comfortable using their own language and (b) people whose understanding of English is limited or even non-existent.

If your research communications include lengthy texts, such as monographs and theses, translation of such items would be prohibitively expensive — though for the former you should choose a publisher well positioned to sell translation rights (so, one that has a dedicated rights team and attends international book fairs) and for the latter you can have the abstract translated.

Shorter communications — executive summaries, abstracts, briefing notes, trade press articles — cost much less to translate.

And translation is likely to extend your reach more than any other action.

Coda: the question of cost

The above post highlights a concept that has remained implicit in the previous posts in this series, namely the question of cost.

Here is a point the sponsors of research frequently highlight: they read a proposal, it gives all kinds of assurances about the potential of the research to make an impact, and then they turn to the budget that accompanies the bid. How much money has been allocated to making impact happen? Typically, almost zilch. A couple of rail tickets to attend a conference in Glasgow or somewhere (well, actually, usually somewhere warmer) and a plate of sandwiches for a meeting with local businesses.

Costs for advisory and consultation meetings, collaborative software, design, editing, filming, translation, etc.? No, no.

If you were the sponsor, which would of the following would you think?

  1. ‘Oh, good, there’s obviously got fantastic ways of achieving impact at little or no expense, so as sponsors we can get all that impact they’ve promised for little or no expense.’
  2. ‘They haven’t thought it through, they’re not serious, and when it comes to it the impact won’t happen.’

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