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Research Impact : Impact

This guide provides guidance on scholarly and research impact for authors and investigators.

Why does Impact Matter?

  • Tenure/Promotion
  • Document and quantify research impact
  • Justify future requests for funding
  • Quantify return on research investment
  • Discover how research findings are being used
  • Discover meaningful health outcomes

Outcomes of Impact

  • Contribution to the knowledge base
  • Change in understanding of a disease, disorder or condition
  • Change in practice
  • Change in community health
  • Change in public law or policy
  • Children dancing in the streets (courtesy of Dr. Bradley Evanoff)


  • Lack of generally accepted definition of impact.
  • Time lag between research discovery and translational applications.
  • Locating and reporting of impact indicators is problematic; not an automatic process.
  • Optimal timeframe for starting assessment is unknown and process can vary by type of research and discipline.
  • Supporting documentation may not be publicly available.
  • Difficult to establish a direct correlation from a specific research output.
  • Not a linear process nor is there a standard method for locating evidence of research impact.
  • Lack of harmonization with metrics and terms.

What is Impact?

There are many definitions for impact.

Washington University School of Medicine released an updated Appointments & Promotions Guidelines and Requirements (APGAR) document in 2024. The definition of impact is: "the influence that the body of work has across a range of domains: scientific, clinical, community, economic, and policy. This concept is applicable to faculty across all tracks and ranks."

The National Institutes of Health provides a broad description of impact as "improving human health, fueling the U.S. economy, and creating jobs in our communities." For more information as to specific examples of impact resulting from NIH funding, see Impact of NIH Research.

The National Science Foundation uses a series of questions to illustrate the meaning of Broader Impacts:

“How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)? To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks, and partnerships? Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?"