Outcomes and Impacts

Impact – Plan, Capture, Communicate

At UCD, we are committed to excellence in research and innovation, and to delivering local, national and global impact. Browse our catalogue of case studies for examples of the meaningful contributions UCD researchers have made in the world.

Click here to jump to our impact supports and resources.

The Challenge of Impact

To plan, capture and communicate impact, researchers need to think systematically about the various ways people can benefit from their work. This is more important than ever, as major funding bodies around the world now consider impact a fundamental aspect of almost all research programmes.

But impact is complex. Although the impact of some research is apparent straight away, in other cases it can take years, or even decades, for impact to become evident. And this impact may be the result of hundreds of factors, of which the research is just one.

On top of that, research can affect all aspects of society, from culture to policy to the environment. A single research project can have impact in many different areas, and one impact may have knock-on effects elsewhere in society.

These distant time horizons and tangled pathways can make it incredibly difficult to plan, capture and communicate impact. However, it is important that you do what you can to direct your research toward positive impacts, and we have developed various supports and resources to help you.

Defining Impact

We recognise that impact has academic, economic and societal elements, defined as follows:

Academic impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to scientific advances, across and within disciplines, including significant advances in understanding, method, theory and application. (Research Councils UK)

Economic and societal impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy, of benefit to individuals, organisations and nations. (Science Foundation Ireland  and Research Councils UK)


There is a lot of confusion around the terminology of outputs, outcomes and impacts (and their interrelationships). We distinguish between these terms as follows:

Outputs are the products of research, typically:

  • Publications – scholarly publications (but not forgetting grey literature)
  • Products – prototype artefacts, research datasets, software
  • Patents 

Outcomes describe people using and becoming aware of research outputs. They generally occur in the short- to medium-term. Examples include:

  • Uptake of tools or devices
  • Patents
  • Media coverage
  • Follow-on grant income

Impacts are changes in society that result from outputs and outcomes. Typically, impacts occur in the long-term. For example:

  • A spin-out company is turning a profit and has employed 15 people (economic impact)
  • A river is now 10% cleaner than before (environmental impact)
  • 10,000 lives are saved every year by a drug developed because of the research (health impact)
  • A new research-informed policy improves social networking among pensioners (social impact)

Impact is...

…the change in the world which results from research.

Examples include:

  • Influencing policy
  • Changing public opinion or informing debate
  • Generating income or enabling savings to be made
  • Improving systems, designs, or processes
  • Enhancing cultural enrichment
  • Scientific advances, across and within disciplines

Impact is not...

…the underlying activities which are undertaken with the aim of effecting these changes.

Examples include:

  • Publishing academic papers or newspaper articles
  • Discussing one's research in the media
  • Coordinating public engagement activities
  • Generating interest in research via social media/blogs etc.
  • Presenting at conferences

For more detail on outputs, outcomes and impact, see our impact journey examples.

Impact Workshops and Seminars

We regularly run tailored workshops and host seminars with national and international impact experts to teach researchers about the complex area of research impact. Keep an eye on this page for information about future seminars. We will communicate about future workshops as they are confirmed.

Research Impact Case Study Competition

We run a yearly competition to build capacity in capturing research impact. It encourages all researchers, regardless of discipline, to consider and celebrate the societal and economic impact of their work.

The competition offers researchers at UCD an opportunity to develop a short case study, with illustrative images, highlighting the impact of their research to an external, non-specialist audience. Winning case studies from previous competitions can be seen here, and a full list of UCD Impact Case Studies is available here.

Impact Sections in Research Proposals

When you apply for funding, most funding bodies expect you to articulate the potential impact of your research on society.

Click the plus sign below to open an infographic with guidance on what should go in this section. Note that this guide has been updated to include specific advice about current rapid-response funding calls responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.


For a printer-friendly PDF version of this infographic, with working links, click here.

Impact Section Guide

Self-Service Supports

A full range of supports and resources relating to planning, capturing and communicating research impact are available below and here.

Central Supports

ServicesContact Details

The UCD Research Management System (RMS) enables academic and research staff to maintain an up-to-date profile to showcase their research expertise and research impact via the UCD website.


The Research Impact microsite showcases all of UCD's research impact case studies to an external audience.


The Promote Your Research microsite gives you tips and guidance on how to promote your research for greatest impact.


ServicesContact Details

Research Repository UCD is a digital collection of open access scholarly research publications from University College Dublin.



Bibliometrics – Bibliometrics is the quantitative analysis of publications. It can help you to make decisions about where to publish your research and to get information about the impact of published research.