The impact of history research is knowable for those who wish to know it

Gary Myers and David Phipps (both from York University) wrote a response to an article that posited that the impact of history research is ultimately unknowable. A summary of their response and link to their article is below.

In winter 2021 Penny Bryden, President (at the time) of the Canadian Historical Association wrote in the quarterly publication, Intersections, that the societal impact of historical research cannot be measured and therefore “is ultimately unknowable”. In Spring 2021 David Phipps (Asst. VP Research Strategy & Impact, York University and Network Director, Research Impact Canada) collaborated with Gary Myers (PhD Student, History Department and Research Associate for Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, York University) in writing a response to this editorial.

Knowledge mobilization to support broader societal impacts of history is alive and well in Canada. David and Gary cited a number of examples of history professors who are not only disseminating history research to the public but are also engaging the public and community organizations as stakeholders in their research. Notably there are history researchers from UVic, UQAM, SFU and of course Gary’s own research at York who are undertaking engaged scholarship. And mobilizers in the know will notice these four universities are all members of Research Impact Canada. We are confident that all universities have history scholars who are actively engaging in public history and other forms of knowledge mobilization.

Some notable quotes from the article:

  • “Using knowledge mobilization strategies in history research creates the conditions for societal impacts…. If a historian wishes to demonstrate the impact of their research, we need do nothing more than what historians have always done and do so well. Tell a story.”
  • “The impact of research is knowable for those who wish to know it. Historians may adapt our research with both digital literacy and knowledge mobilization strategies to create impacts that can more readily be appreciated as part of the historian’s craft.”

Knowledge mobilization to support broader societal impacts of history research may not be common but it is present among history scholars across Canada.

You can read Gary and David’s article starting on page 4 of the publication.

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