Journal article

Impact is essential to research, policy-making and implementation. Yet impact is often misunderstood or poorly defined. For public policy scholars, concerns about impact exist largely on two planes. On one level scholars seek to understand the impacts of policy interventions. On a second level scholars aim for their public policy research to generate real-world impact. These two concerns – the “what” and the “how” of research – are often treated separately. In this article, we argue that it is worthwhile joining up these concerns about impact. This is possible, we suggest, through a combination of logic models and a novel rethink of the usual “pathway to research impact”. The article introduces two research co-design tools aimed at improving the likelihood of achieving research impact, while also improving understanding of those impacts: an integrated knowledge translation (IKT)-informed logic model and an implementation science (IS)-derived Pathway to Impact. We draw on a multi-year research co-creation project to develop the Infrastructure Engagement Excellence (IEE) Standards for Australia’s $250 billion infrastructure sector. This co-creation project illustrates the development of the logic model, Pathway to Impact and consequent research co-design process. Together, these tools can support policy scholars’ efforts to produce impactful research while also creating better understanding of policy and practice impacts, and how to achieve them. We conclude that genuine and robust research co-design requires researchers to commit not only to undertaking research with rigour, but also a willingness to dedicate thought and effort to the relationship between what research activities are carried out and how those processes can advance policy and practice outcomes and impact.

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