Policy and Societal Impact as an Institutional Mission

On October 27, 2022, Research Impact Canada (RIC) jointly hosted the second webinar with Universities Policy Engagement Network (UPEN) to discuss policy and societal impact as an institutional mission. The event was moderated by David Phipps (RIC) and Justin Fisher (UPEN).  

Our fantastic panelists were:

  • Marina Altoe, Impact and Partnership Development Manager for Policy and Education (University of Exeter)
  • Rebecca Cohoe, Manager, Public Engagement (Memorial University of Newfoundland)
  • Juliet Jopson, Policy Officer, Policy Leeds (University of Leeds) 

Key Takeaway Messages

  • Some challenges of policy engagements from the University of Exeter’s perspective: Policy timelines are extremely long and can be difficult to tell when opportunities will pop up, it doesn’t bring in money directly, and the geographical distance between those who are located further away from the capital of the country (in Exeter) and those located in the policy landscape of the capital (London, UK) has caused some limitations. Nevertheless, universities should be accelerators in this space
  • Research evaluation framework (REF) has also seen a shift in the UK – from short-term thinking (“Is this prpoject going to bring in money or reputational benefits?”) to long-term thinking/rewards
  • Universities have a calling in this space to broker relationships in policy engagement, facilitate interactions, and give academics space and resources
  • If we want to push policy impact as an institutional mission, we need to move beyond income-driven impact measures
  • If there are frameworks for research and learning, why isn’t there a framework for public engagement? Thus, a Public Engagement Framework was created at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) for 2012-2020 (recently highlighted as best practice by OECD)
  • For MUN, the focus is framed more on societal impact than policy engagement
  • Lessons learned: have a clear plan, no one owns “public engagement,” and people really want to do this work,
  • For the University of Leeds, having an academic strategy that embeds community, culture, and impact as part of its mission is key along with building regional networks
  • Institutions can set the environment for policy engagement, find ways to be inclusive of partners, and recognize that impact can take a long time and effort so it is important to recognize and reward the efforts of those pursuing this journey

*About the Organizers*

Research Impact Canada (RIC) is committed to helping universities and other organizations across Canada maximize the impact of research for communities. From sharing best practices, co-developing resources, to delivering training in knowledge mobilization skills, we are an open and collaborative network of 20+ universities (and growing!) across Canada. Learn more at: https://researchimpact.ca/

The Universities Policy Engagement Network (UPEN) is a community of UK universities committed to increasing the impact of research on policy. UPEN offers a dedicated contact point for policymakers, and a collective response to requests for evidence. It organises knowledge exchange events with government, parliament, devolved bodies, and identifies mechanisms to take forward specific projects. Learn more at: https://www.upen.ac.uk/