SOAS University of London

Research

Research Impact Strategy

SOAS Research Matters: Making a difference in the world

Impact matters at SOAS. It is through our impact on mindsets, discourses, representations and perspectives - as well as on policies and practices - that we change the world around us for the better. Through that change-making work, we create the intellectual excitement that attracts the colleagues, research collaborators, partners in external and international institutions and students who share our values and contribute to the fulfilment of our mission.

  • Approach
  • Activities
  • Supporting Impact at SOAS

Mission

We are committed to making a difference through our research, engagement and activism, shaping scholarship across the arts, humanities and social sciences in ways that promote justice, peace and wellbeing in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and that influence policy and practice, including towards diaspora and migrant communities within the UK.

Through our key research themes - Global Voices, Heritage of Humanity, Global Interactions, Sharing a Small Planet, Global Diplomacy and Governance – we bring together and build critical mass in areas where we are able to make a real difference to challenging inequality and injustice.

SOAS is committed to decolonising and democratising the pursuit of knowledge and to opening space for and giving voice to scholars and areas of scholarship that have been marginalised in the past. Our research is innovative, asking novel questions and engaging critically with mainstream discourses.

Our scholars embrace diverse perspectives and engage plural voices in debate, working closely with research organisations and key non-academic actors and stakeholders in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and researchers in or from those regions. With our unique combination of disciplinary expertise and regional focus, we aim to be a beacon of public engagement on contemporary global issues.

Approach

Our approach to impact is geared at strengthening the capacity of all of those engaged in research at SOAS to engage in the kinds of change-making activities that enable them to most effectively amplify the impact of their research. Our research-informed advocacy ranges from engaging public stakeholders with our research, to acting as catalysts to amplify our influence and exert pressure on those in positions of power.

The excellence we pursue in our research and learning activities depends not only on scholarship of our researchers at SOAS, but also on the co-design, collaboration and co-production of research with diverse stakeholders, partners and organisations beyond higher education. The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) defines public engagement as “by definition a two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.” SOAS is a signatory of the NCCPE’s Manifesto.

Embedding public engagement in our research enables us to take our ideas and knowledge outside the academy and into dialogue with broader publics, to inform and inspire.

Activities

Documenting Learning and Change

We are committed to improving the ways in which we monitor and evaluate the difference our research is making in the world, through which we will enhance our future research and impact. We will help our researchers to map potential stakeholders who might directly benefit from or be influencers who can draw on our research to influence change, and how best to reach and engage with them.

We will also provide researchers with guidance on how to enhance the collection of evidence of impact. We will continue to gather and interpret impact-related intelligence concerning our REF 2021 submission, support the collection of evidence of research impact, and coordinate the preparation of impact case studies, which will document our contributions to real world change.

Supporting Collaboration and Co-Production of Research

SOAS has key relationships and collaborations with the UK Parliament and UK Government bodies such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence; social movements, unions, civil society organisations and trans-national activist networks; important museums and cultural institutions such as the British Museum and the British Library; UN and international agencies such as UNICEF and the World Bank; Ministers of Foreign Affairs in various countries; NGOs and philanthropic donors.

A key objective is to foster and support our relationships and collaborations with key actors beyond academia, and promote and celebrate success stories of collaboration and co-production of research which have led to positive change and long-lasting impact and mutual benefits.

Building Applied Research Partnerships

A priority objective in our Knowledge Exchange strategy is to build sustainable partnerships with key commercial, government and not-for-profit organisations. With an increased focus on CPD, consultancy, contract and collaborative research, we believe our KE strategy will bring about wide economic and social benefits.

We are committed to developing genuinely mutual partnerships with colleagues in other countries, breaking with practices in our sector that instrumentalise southern partners and deny them a meaningful part in shaping research agendas, in the conceptualisation of research initiatives and an equitable share of budgets.

We will work with scholars in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, as well as their diasporas, to
expand opportunities for engagement in transnational as well as local research and influencing initiatives that tackle global challenges. We will prioritise creating opportunities for those who tend to be marginalised – such as women and ethnic or religious minorities – reversing hierarchies of knowledge and expertise, decolonising and democratising research
collaboration.

Creating an Enabling Environment

To achieve our goals of creating positive societal benefit and change, as well as increased success in winning impact-related funding, we will seek to create a space and an enabling environment for SOAS researchers to develop their knowledge and skills in influencing andengagement.

We will do this not only through specialist training and development programmes and workshops on research impact, public engagement and knowledge exchange, but also through peer-to-peer exchange and mentoring. We will seek to create a network of impact champions in our departments and Schools who can support the process of developing and nurturing the capacities of our researchers to engage in taking their research out of the academy and using it to make a difference.

Supporting Impact at SOAS

Impact Advisory Board

We are establishing a high-profile Impact Advisory Board to guide our researchers towards making more of their impact, advise us on our approach and on specific opportunities and challenges SOAS researchers are grappling with, and to act as interlocutors to amplify our external influence and voice.

Advice and Guidance

The Impact Officer, the Associate Director of Research (Impact and Engagement) and the Impact and Engagement Convenors will act as a source of expert advice and guidance. We will facilitate peer-to-peer learning and mentoring between academics, drawing on our considerable experience across the institution of influencing policy-makers and public engagement. Resources available to staff include an online impact ‘platform’ which facilitates the drafting of impact narratives and provides secure storage for the supporting evidence for REF impact case studies.

Internal Funding Mechanisms

We provide internal funding for impact and engagement activities on a competitive basis via specific funds managed by the Research and Enterprise Office (Seed Corn, Engagement and Impact and Knowledge Exchange). This funding supports staff in creating and exploring innovative opportunities for building and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships and collaborations with external partners, in gathering evidence of impact, and in delivering the benefits of our research to a range of beneficiaries in the UK, around the world, and particularly in our regions. We also provide targeted funding to support the development of our impact case studies.

Recognition and Reward

An annual Director’s Prize for Research Impact and Public Engagement will be launched in 2018/19, which will celebrate the achievements of individuals or groups whose research activities have made a positive difference in the wider world, or who have made an outstanding contribution in the field of research-led public engagement. Outstanding impact can also form the basis for discretionary pay awards.

The value of impact in academic careers is also recognised via our Academic Performance Framework where a key criterion is ‘leadership of a research project or body of research that has had an outstanding and demonstrable impact on the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’ and our Academic Promotion Procedure where ‘Evidence of outstanding research impact’ and ‘Knowledge Transfer and Enterprise activity…defined as a contribution to society and the economy through the application of knowledge to the benefit of the broader community’ are explicit criteria.

Responsibilities

Strategic responsibility for research impact lies with the Pro-Director for Research and Enterprise, the Associate Director of Research (Impact and Engagement), Research and REF Coordinators. The Research and Enterprise Office is responsible for providing advice, guidance and support to academic staff, via the Impact Officer, the Research Communications and Impact Officer, the Research Excellence Manager, the Research Funding Officers and the Enterprise Team (Knowledge Exchange).