Re-thinking research impact: voice, context and power at the interface of science, policy and practice

MSR Reed*, Hannah Rudman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


The world is facing unprecedented challenges on a scale that has never been seen before, and the need for evidence-informed solutions has never been greater. As a result, academics, policy-makers, practitioners, and research funders are increasingly seeking to undertake or support research that achieves tangible impacts on policy and practice. However, the impact of research is inherently subjective, with the same outcome perceived as either beneficial or negative by different groups, or by the same group in different contexts. It is therefore important to consider factors that may increase the likelihood that outcomes from research are perceived as beneficial (or otherwise) by interested/affected groups and non-academic partners, to help researchers avoid causing potentially harmful impacts, despite their best intentions. In this overview article, we discuss three considerations for re-thinking how research can deliver such outcomes: (i) sensitivity to context, (ii) representation and legitimisation of diverse voices and (iii) the management of power dynamics. We then discuss how these can be enacted in research and engagement processes that are designed to incorporate multiple ways of viewing reality and knowledge, as researchers become increasingly aware of their positionality, privilege, assumptions and biases. By considering how research and impact generation processes are mediated by context, power and voice, it may be possible to envision just transformations of knowledge systems that foreground the knowledge and needs of diverse groups, including those who have been historically marginalised, and without systematically recognising or privileging one group over another.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-981
Number of pages15
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number2
Early online date15 Sept 2022
Publication statusPrint publication - Mar 2023


  • Decolonisation
  • Diversity
  • Equality
  • Inclusion
  • KMb
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Knowledge systems
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Positionality
  • Privilege
  • Research impact
  • Transformations


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