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Over 200 social scientists, practitioners, impact professionals and external funders celebrated successes, examined challenges, and shared learning at impact conference

Conference discussion John Cairns
Workshop participants at the Impact:Making a Difference conference

On Thursday 19th April, over 200 social scientists, practitioners, representatives from research funders, and research support staff came together at St Anne's College, Oxford to explore impact from social sciences research today and what it could or should look like in the future.

The Impact: Making a Difference conference featured a wide range of session types, including case studies, panel discussions, shared learning sessions, practical workshops and more. Delegates were encouraged by speakers to celebrate their impact successes and provide encouragement for their peers, but also to engage thoughtfully in the challenges they have overcome, the different kinds of skills required for engagement and impact work, and how academics can listen and respond to the needs of external partners.

Some highlights included:                                

  • What is the future of impact in the social sciences, beyond REF?  A plenary panel discussion featuring  Dr Julie Bayley (ARMA Impact Champion), Dr Melanie Knetsch (ESRC Strategic Lead for Interdisciplinarity, Innovation and Impact) and Professor Peter Kemp (Vice-Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Public Policy, Blavatnik School of Government)
  • Case studies from researchers working on improving water security in Africa, scaling up research impact on a large scale in developing countries, impact through the media, and academic engagement with UK and foreign policy.
  • Panel discussions touching areas including how non-legal academics can have legal impacts, what genuine co-production of impact looks like and how we can get there in practice, and working with partners to achieve educational or learning impacts.
  • Contributions from practitioners from external organisations in healthcare, the arts, government, business, and other sectors about their ongoing needs and how academics can best support their work.
  • Practical workshops on media skills, working with drama and performance for impact, and how to make the most of social media
  • Closing plenary from Alun Evans, Chief Executive of the British Academy and Dr Caroline Kenny, UCL and Social Science Advisor at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The conference was organised by O2RB - a regional impact partnership between the University of Oxford, University of Reading, Oxford Brookes University and The Open University, supported by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account. The IAA has provided funding for over 100 impact projects to date.

The day was rounded off by the O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards, which celebrated the exceptional impacts already achieved by social scientists across the partnership. More details on the awards can be found here.

Further photographs of the event, recorded talks, video interviews with some of the key speakers, and shared learning resources will also be available over the next few months.