The SHAPE of research impact

The British Academy
Number of pages

In 2023, the British Academy, in association with the Academy of Social Sciences, commissioned a team of researchers at the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science (University of Oxford) to carry out a piece of research that would explore research impact for the SHAPE disciplines, looking at the body of impact case studies submitted to the most recent research assessment exercise in the UK (REF2021). The has resulted in the publication of the report “The SHAPE of Research Impact”. This is a detailed and comprehensive piece of research that uses sophisticated techniques to provide insights into research impact across the SHAPE disciplines. This project has generated a new typology for SHAPE research impact, which has been used to construct ten Grand Impact Themes for the SHAPE disciplines:

  1. Arts, Literature & Design
  2. History & Cultural Heritage
  3. Education & Teaching
  4. Business, Economics & Management
  5. Employment
  6. Crime & Exclusion
  7. Family & Gender
  8. Governments & Law
  9. Health & Wellbeing
  10. Sustainability & Infrastructure

In addition to this new typology, the report also offers an analysis of:

  • The international geography of SHAPE research impact
  • Noted funders of the research underpinning impact case studies
  • The gender of authors of underpinning research

A more detailed summary of this work can be found in the full report, alongside full information on the scope, methodology and findings of this project.

The British Academy and Academy of Social Sciences have also produced a shorter document that reflects on the findings of the report, drawing out some of the key messages:

  • SHAPE research is bolstering UK expertise and strength in areas of competitive advantage;
  • SHAPE research is tackling societal challenges;
  • SHAPE research helps to understand people and empower communities here in the UK;
  • SHAPE research spreads beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to create impact;
  • SHAPE research is a smart investment, with impact providing value for money.

More detail can be found on each of these in the messages document, with links made to specific examples that are featured in the full report.

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