Riding the Waves: How to Write a Successful Pathways to Impact

If you plan on applying for funding from any of the UK Research Councils (AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, and STFC), then you will need to write a Pathways to Impact.

A Pathways to Impact is a technical document that explains how you will achieve the aims described in the Impact Summary:

  • It should be written before the Impact Summary
  • It should not be a copy and paste of either the proposal, in general, or the Impact      Summary, in particular
  • It should be reflected in the project’s budget
  • It should think about impact beyond the life of the project.

“In making applications to the Research Councils applicants will have to demonstrate the pathways to impact for their research. Careful consideration of Pathways to Impact is an essential component of research proposals and a condition of funding.”

UKRI (UK Research & Innovation)

The Pathways to Impact is a two page document that is submitted with the proposal and is a requirement for funding. The Pathways to Impact is distinct from, but complementary to, the Impact Summary, which is part of the online submission form.

So, how do you navigate the rocky waters of funding proposal writing?

You never forget your RAFTS!

RAFTS (Responsibility, Activity, Feasibility, Timeline, Success)

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  1. Responsibility – Who has responsibility for each impact-related activity? This should be spread out as much as possible. Make use of institutional resources!
  2. Activity – What are the specific activities that will be undertaken to achieve the impact of the project? You need to be concrete and specific; the more detail the better.
  3. Feasibility – What experiences do or your team have to ensure success? Who have you spoken to? What is the current state of those relationships? How reasonable are your goals? How flexible is the impact plan?
  4. Timeline – Is impact already in the project’s timeline? If not, this is the place to ensure that your audience understands exactly when each activity will occur.
  5. Success – How will you know that you’ve had impact? You need to set your measures for success and clearly articulate at what points in your timeline you will revisit these measures. This ensures flexibility; if something isn’t working, you can reframe and reshape to improve the likelihood of impact!

Pathways to Impact Dos and Don’ts

High quality Pathways statements recognise that researchers need more than technical skills and experience of using research and knowledge exchange methods, and identify when researchers need to strengthen their relationship building, partnership working and negotiation skills to work with research users.”

From the ESRC’s Impact Toolkit

Pathways to Impact “Dos”

  • Add impact activities into your costs
  • Write the Pathways to Impact statement before the Impact Summary
  • Make use of University or Research Council impact or communication training
  • Use the web for dissemination, but be clear how you will engage users
  • Involve and leverage stakeholders at all stages
  • Consider adding users as co-investigators
  • Be specific about the nature of the impact and impact activities
  • Provide a detailed timescale
  • Detail success criteria and the means of measurement
    • Think about both formal and informal ways of assessment
  • Consider wider audiences beyond your immediate beneficiaries.

Pathways to Impact “Don’ts”

  • Repeat (or, worse, copy and paste!) between your Pathways to Impact and Impact Summary
  • Claim impact where there isn’t any
  • Make generic statements
  • Cite journal publications as a method of achieving impact
  • Cite relationships that you don’t have or can’t plausibly develop
  • Do all the work yourself.  Appropriate distribution of work shows accountability and feasibility
  • Use the passive voice to describe any activities. You will lose the clarity and directness that active voice offers.
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