We are thrilled to announce that Digital Science’s Consultancy division will undertake a new project to analyse the wider impact of the research undertaken by UK universities.

Working in conjunction with our sister company Nature Publishing Group and the policy institute at King’s College, London, the analysis commissioned by HEFCE and partners*, will draw on the 6,975 impact case studies submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

REF is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK universities and higher education colleges and the results of the 2014 REF will be published in December. As part of the REF exercise, universities submitted case studies showcasing the impact of their research beyond academia. These studies outline changes and benefits to the economy, society, culture, public policy and services, health, the environment and quality of life.

The goals of this work are to:

• Make the impact case studies freely available in a form and format that will enable any researcher to carry out analysis, using a range of techniques and methods including automated text-mining. We envisage that this will be achieved through an online database of case studies.

• Carry out a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the impact case studies, to extract common themes and messages that will form evidence of the broad impact of higher education research on wider society.

The results of the project will be published in Spring 2015 and a summary will also be published as a supplement in Nature.

Steven Hill, HEFCE Head of Research Policy says:

‘Sector-level analysis of the REF impact case studies will be of great benefit to the UK’s higher education sector as a whole, and will provide valuable information to demonstrate the range of impacts of its research’

Timo Hannay adds:

‘We’re very proud that our new Consultancy division has been awarded this important evaluation project by HEFCE. Our team combines the technological expertise of Digital Science and 25 years of practical experience of research evaluation and assessment from our project leads and the Policy Institute at Kings College, London. That experience is linked through prior work, a common knowledge base and awareness of the deficits in historical research evaluation.’

Jonathan Grant, Director, Policy Institute and Professor of Public Policy, King’s College London explains:

‘The Policy Institute at King’s and the Department of Digital Humanities are very excited to have this unique and challenging opportunity to synthesise the impact of research that has occurred in UK universities in recent years. Drawing on our knowledge and experience of impact assessment and frameworks, and using text mining techniques, we will assess the scale and nature of the impact across the case studies submitted to REF.’

Steven Inchcoombe, CEO of Nature Publishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan adds:

“We applaud HEFCE and its partners for their focus on societal impact of research, their evidence-based approach, and transparency in providing open access to these case studies. A custom supplement in Nature will help distil the evidence, so that we can all see what impact higher education research really has on the economy and society at large.”

* Partners in this project are the Scottish Funding Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Department for Employment and Learning NI, Research Councils UK, the Wellcome Trust.