EPSRC Pathways to Impact: Your Pathways to Impact Plan

Supplementary content information

Guidance for applicants and reviewers, regarding a Pathways to Impact Plan.

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[Interviewer]

How important is the Pathways to Impact to a grant application?

Alison Wall, Associate Director, Impact [AW]

That’s an excellent question and its one that we’re really paying attention to now. So I would say that top priority in our peer review and panel prioritisation process is the excellence of the research and although there has been quite some debate about that recently, we’ve absolutely re-affirmed that. But then after that the next criterion will be national importance and, in order to achieve national importance, in order to achieve what you are setting out in your research as part of your case for support, you also need to follow up with the how and who are you going to work with, how are you going to link to the beneficiaries and so it is a secondary criteria that will be discussed within the peer review process. Therefore I don’t think it’s going to be the key difference between where the panel rank your research proposal but it is an important aspect that might well be discussed at the panel and increasingly it is something you will see us in EPSRC picking up after the panel meetings for the funded research projects. We’re reading those justifications in the Pathways to Impact and we’re thinking is this as good as it could be for this piece of research.

[Interviewer]

Can you provide some examples of the kind of ambitious elements you would like to see included in a Pathways to Impact?

[AW]

The sort of examples that we would like to see are around things that we know work to help deliver impact. So we’d like to see more around people mobility. We know that is absolutely key in bringing people together between business and academia and engaging with policy-makers or people in charities - we know that’s how you actually get impact. So think about would it be good for a member of staff to spend time out with a company or time in a policy group. Maybe you as the research investigator, perhaps you need to spend some time out somewhere and really don’t be afraid to ask for the resources to do that and make that a practical thing to do. The other thing that we know really works, and this is perhaps a bit later stage in the research, is to think about the lifetime of your research and where it’s got to. Most research that we know doesn’t break into three year packages, usually it’s a ten, fifteen year evolution of research so when you are ready would it help to do that follow on funding type work, that proof of market, proof of concept, broaden the IP position ready for the patent application. This is all legitimate funding, it’s in our charter so we should do that - don’t be afraid to ask for it.

[Interviewer]

During the course of a grant if a researcher finds that they have a great idea for some Pathways to Impact activities that they would like to do, that they didn’t originally ask for when they applied for their funding, are they able to come back to EPSRC and ask for further funding to do those activities?

[AW]

I would say that’s not normal practice, that’s not normal practice for researchers and universities and that’s not normal practice for us in EPSRC, but it is something that we would like to get better at doing. So as we change from being a funder to a sponsor of research we see that as raising our game in terms of engagement with ongoing research so if those opportunities come up, do come back to us, talk to us and we might well be able to provide some additional funding, whereas in previous years you might not have thought that was something we would do. You might find that we are much more open to that now so come and talk to us.

[Interviewer]

Is there a rule of thumb on how much a researcher should apply for as part of their Pathways to Impact?

[AW]

There isn’t and we would say just the same as we do for any research project, think through what you need to do and ask for the resources. We’ve just had a look at 150 Pathways to Impact on grants that were awarded last year and most of the resources are for things like publication charges, workshops and conferences. Publication charges, we’d see very much around academic impact rather than societal and economic impact and we really think that there is room for people to be much more ambitious in what they are asking for.