We monitor the impact and progress of the research that we fund in a number of ways.
Why do we measure impact?
Alzheimer’s Research UK collects impact data to evaluate the difference our funding is making, ensuring our Research Strategy is working as hard as it can to deliver change for people with dementia. As a research charity, we also have a duty to ensure the outputs of the research we fund are openly and widely communicated to our donors and supporters.
What is impact?
Impact means different things to different audiences. In 2017, the Association of Medical Research Charities published Making a difference: Impact report 2017. The report classified impact into the following categories:
To researchers, generating new knowledge and stimulating further research via new funding or partnerships may be some of the most obvious impacts of the work we fund. For those living with dementia and their friends, families and carers, ideas that translate into new products and services are perhaps the most tangible impacts.
Our 2017 report Keeping pace: Progress in dementia research capacity estimated there are approximately four cancer researchers for every dementia researcher in the UK. To emulate the great successes in cancer research over the past 20 years, we need to develop the UK’s capacity to perform dementia research. One of the many ways we are achieving this is by offering response-mode funding opportunities across the academic career ladder:
- PhD Studentships for graduates with a desire to enter dementia research.
- Research Fellows who are carving out their research niche and progressing on the pathway to independent dementia research.
- Tenured researchers performing large projects and programmes.
- Vital equipment installed in centres of excellence where multiple dementia research groups can benefit.
Building capacity in dementia research and supporting our researchers to achieve impactful outputs is vital in achieving our vision of a world free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia. We use impact data to create evidence that will influence policy or other stakeholders, bringing dementia research into the spotlight and driving greater investment in the field.
How does Alzheimer’s Research UK monitor progress and measure impact?
Our grantholders are required to report annually their progress and outputs. As well as using this data to measure impact, we monitor the progress of the award against the original proposal approved by the Trustees.
Researchfish® reporting is common to many research councils and charitable funders around the world and allows grantholders to provide information on a range of outputs:
Grantholders are also required to answer a supplementary Alzheimer’s Research UK specific question set, which can be found under the ‘Additional questions’ section of the grant’s Researchfish® record. This allows us to track the progress of work and whether the initial aims have been achieved.
We run one Researchfish® reporting period annually, which falls across February and March. Our grantholders can therefore expect to receive invitations to submit progress reports around this time of the year. Failure to submit an impact and progress report may cause Alzheimer’s Research UK to refuse to consider further grant requests.
Additional means of monitoring impact and progress
From time to time, the Research team will additionally undertake site visits to meet our researchers, hear about their progress and talk about impact. We also attend the annual scientific meetings hosted by our Research Network Centres, and various other workshops and conferences, where we are always keen to talk to our researchers about their work. Participation in these activities however does not exempt a researcher from filling out Researchfish®.
Why should researchers embrace impact?
We appreciate that reporting the outputs of each grant you hold across various funders can be a laborious process. However, Alzheimer’s Research UK funded research is made possible by donations from our generous supporters – they’ve ran, cycled, walked, jumped out of planes, baked and achieved all manner of incredible fundraising feats to raise those funds. To show our supporters how grateful we are, we endeavour to share the outputs of the research that we fund as widely as possible.
By encouraging our UK-based researchers to think about impact beyond just publications, we hope to inspire a way of thinking that is transferrable to national review processes such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF is a process of expert review across the full academic spectrum within UK Higher Education and part of the purpose of this review is to inform selective allocation of funding for research. For each submission, three distinct elements are assessed: the quality of outputs (e.g. publications, performances, and exhibitions), their impact beyond academia, and the environment that supports research.