Research Impact

Western Sydney University’s focus on research impact emphasises the importance of extending the reach of research, making important discoveries and insightful solutions accessible and applicable in the real world. While the fundamental value of scholarly inquiry remains unchanged, research at Western Sydney University is driven by a powerful desire to see research not just inform, but transform: to tackle pressing challenges, improve lives, and shape a better future for all.

The University’s commitment to impact beyond academia is captured by the Research Impact Strategy 2023-2026 – Making Our Future (PDF, 5588.71 KB). The phrase ‘Making Our Future’ relates to the empowerment of researchers and higher degree research (HDR) candidates at Western to focus on real-world impact as a key component of research success.

These are some key actions for researchers looking to achieve meaningful impact beyond academia:

  • Communicate clearly and concisely. Minimise jargon and focus on making your research understandable to a wider audience.
  • Collaborate with stakeholders. Partner with policymakers, industry experts, and community leaders to design and produce impactful research projects.
  • Embrace new technologies. Utilise social media, interactive platforms, and creative storytelling to engage non-academic audiences with your work.
  • Measure and track your impact. Plan to collect evidence throughout the research process, as showcasing the real-world benefits of your research is crucial for securing funding and support.

While these practices won’t guarantee impact, they will create the conditions for successful engagement, laying a path towards demonstrated impact. Research with real-world impact bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. The potential of research to solve problems, drive innovation, and create positive change is far-reaching:

  • Boost health and wellbeing: Research can inform the development of life-saving drugs, improve healthcare delivery, and promote healthy lifestyles.
  • Protect our planet: Environmental research can guide sustainable practices, combat climate change, and conserve precious resources.
  • Build a more just society: Social science research can inform policies that address inequality, promote education, and empower communities.
  • Fuel economic growth: Scientific advancements can lead to new technologies, industries, and job creation.

Through the implementation of the Impact Strategy, the goal is to harness and build on our research strengths and empower researchers to work collaboratively with all interested parties to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes for society.

The pursuit of research impact at Western is additionally supported by the Research, Enterprise and International 2021-2026 Strategic Plan (PDF, 5563.8 KB), the Research Theme Program, and annual Research Week events.

Impact Stories

We will create opportunities for researchers to share their impact pathway and success stories with the Western community:

Future-Makers

Future-Makers showcases some of the incisive and innovative research happening at Western. Each issue provides insight into researchers who seek fresh perspectives on local, regional, and global problems, and engage with communities to co-design solutions that benefit people’s lives.

Research Impact Competition

The Research Impact Competition showcases research from across the University's research themes to an audience of external stakeholders, staff, and students. One early/mid-career researcher is selected from each School and Institute to present in the competition, highlighting their research impact and engagement in just five minutes using a single PowerPoint slide.

Podcasts

Produced in partnership with the Nature Careers podcast, Working Scientist, these six short podcast segments feature interviews with a selection of researchers who were award winners in the University’s Research Impact Competition in 2022 and 2023. To listen, click on the links below.

  1. Dr Jonathan Plett (MP3, 24980.75 KB) from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment discusses the research and impact for his winning 2022 presentation: Million Dollar Fungi — Using Our Fungal Wealth to Support Forestry Health and Tackle Climate Change (10m:40s)
  2. Dr Tendai Chikweche (MP3, 20338.25 KB) from the School of Business discusses his work addressing the mobility crises in rural Zimbabwe through a shared community multi-purpose electric vehicle solution (08m:41s)
  3. Dr Erin Mackenzie (MP3, 23143.25 KB) from the School of Education discusses her work investigating attitudes towards science study for girls and boys in their early to middle years of high school (09m:52s)
  4. Dr Manuel Esperon-Rodriguez (MP3, 23626.06 KB) from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment discusses his work investigating the impact of climate change on urban forests (10m:05s)
  5. Dr Hazel Keedle (MP3, 25860.13 KB) from the School of Nursing and Midwifery discusses her work as the lead researcher on the Birth Experience Study (11m:02s)
  6. Dr Maria Rashidi (MP3, 22384.81 KB) from the Centre for Infrastructure Engineering within the School of Engineering, Design and Built Environment discusses her work using drones for the asset-management and health-monitoring of bridges (09m:33s)

Impact and Engagement Case Studies

Western Sydney University’s positive results in the Australian Research Council (ARC) 2018 Engagement and Impact (EI) Assessment demonstrated the value of developing written case studies that articulate successful engagement strategies and research impact in each Field of Research. In that assessment, an impressive 52% of Western’s case studies were rated ‘high’ on community impact measures, compared to the sector average of 43%.

Following the Australian Government’s directive in late 2022 that the ARC must discontinue the second national EI Assessment planned for 2024, the University decided to pursue its own annual impact assessment exercise, based on the case study review methodology. As articulated in the Research Impact Strategy 2023-2026 – Making Our Future (PDF, 5588.71 KB), 'ensuring impactful research and positive societal outcomes is a critical part of Western’s agenda irrespective of external/government requirements'.

The selected case studies in each Field of Research will showcase best practice for the pursuit of an impact pathway through partnerships and engagement, as well as demonstrating the process of evidencing and evaluating the impact the research has had beyond academia.