Moving towards developing the right tools to capture the impact of research

Moving towards developing the right tools to capture the impact of research

The goal of the workshop was to take the first steps towards development of a tool to comprehensively capture the broad impacts of research.

The exciting and thought provoking dialogues were led by Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould, CHHM Research Associate - Knowledge Translation; Ms. Sarah Lusina, CHHM Knowledge Broker; and Dr. Charlie Goldsmith, Ilich/Merck Chair in Statistics for Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases at the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada and Professor of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.  

“Research impact has many different meanings.  We wanted to provide a forum where people within the research sector, and beyond, could come together to share their ideas about what research impact is from their perspective” said Lusina. “From that point we were able to work towards a common understanding of what can be included in a definition of research impact.”


“Complex questions require a diverse chorus of voices and opinions that together form a synchronous choir of strategies and solutions,” said Dr. Heather McKay, CHHM Director and Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia.

The workshop included a diverse group of about 40 people, selected for their unique perspectives on research impact. Many CHHM investigators and trainees were present along with CHHM collaborators from across the UBC campus and many other parts of Canada. Funding agency representatives (Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Genome BC along with community organizations (e.g. Union of BC Municipalities), advocacy groups (e.g. United Way of the Lower Mainland) and corporate experts (e.g. SAP Labs Canada ) were also present offering new perspectives to an already rich discussion on research impact – and how to measure it.

“Once we understand how research impact is defined, we can move forward to devise ways to comprehensively articulate it – and eventually, measure it. We also acknowledge the phenomenon of ‘what gets measured gets done’.  As we begin to articulate the broader impacts of research we start to achieve them,” said Lusina.

The structure of the workshop encouraged cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary interaction.  Through breakout sessions the ‘collective intelligence’ of participants was called upon to develop a framework to capture research impact.  Participants also learned new concepts and ideas to incorporate into their own work. 

Keynote presentations from the academic and corporate sectors also sparked new ideas and points for conversation.

  • Dr. Carole Estabrooks, University of Alberta, Faculty of Nursing, spoke about how knowledge translation and exchange frameworks can influence and facilitate the creation of impact. 
  • Mr. Dag Furst, Principle of Furst Consulting Limited, provided insights with his talk about stakeholders and end users of research.  Further, he spoke about the measurement tools employed in the business sector to evaluate productivity and assess how these could be applied in the research sector to measure outputs and impact.

“We were able to harness the intelligence in the room to fill our ‘toolboxes’ with new ways to articulate and conceive measuring aspects of impact like partnerships and policy change,” said Sims-Gould. “This is the first step of many as we strive to more comprehensively measure and articulate research impact – and to create impact!”

The workshop was supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research - Meeting, Planning and Dissemination grant.  A special thanks to CHHM staff and the Vancouver Integrated Study on Aging Team for supporting this event.