NHMRC defines the impact of research as the verifiable outcomes that research makes to knowledge, health, the economy and/or society, and not the prospective or anticipated effects of the research.

Impact is the effect of the research after it has been adopted, adapted for use, or used to inform further research. Research impact also includes research that leads to a decision not to use a particular diagnostic, treatment or health policy.

Types of impact

NHMRC recognises four specific types of impact:

  • Knowledge impact
  • Health impact
  • Economic impact
  • Social impact.

More information about each type of impact is available on the Types of research impact table.

Benefits

Impacts from health and medical research can include the following benefits: 

  • results from basic research used to inform the understanding of biological processes that underpin improvements in new therapeutics, diagnostics or disease prevention
  • evidence-based improvements to health care practices or health care systems
  • reduction in health risk factors for, or improvements to, health-related behaviours of individuals and communities
  • improvements in access to health care services
  • improvements in consistency of care
  • improvements in patient empowerment and participation in care delivery
  • commercialisation of scientific discoveries that improve health and contribute to the economy
  • demonstrations of how research collaboration with end users can provide outcomes relevant to end users
  • demonstrations of the value for money of research outcomes and outputs
  • improvements to the social well-being, equality or social inclusion of individuals and communities.

Why is communicating the impact of research important?

Communicating the impact of the research funded by NHMRC shows the variety of ways the community benefits from Australian health and medical research and provides accountability for the Australian Government’s significant public investment in health and medical research. As an Australian Government agency, NHMRC is legislatively required to generate public benefits and to show that it has done so. These requirements are set out in the:

  • National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992, which has ‘Raising the standard of individual and public health throughout Australia’ as one of its objectives 
  • Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, which requires Australian Government organisations, including NHMRC, to measure and assess their own performance in achieving their purposes 
  • Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines 2017, which outline key principles for better practice grants administration including ‘an outcomes orientation’ and ‘achieving value with relevant money’. 

What NHMRC is doing to communicate impact

You can learn more about the impact of the research NHMRC funds in a number of ways. NHMRC:

  • works with partners to demonstrate the longer-term impacts of NHMRC funded research through NHMRC Impact case studies
  • publishes features on the researchers and research supported by NHMRC funding in 10 of the Best
  • provides information on how funding is allocated in Research funding data and on research collaboration and research outputs in Measuring Up 
  • recognises the impact of research through the Research Excellence Awards, the winners of which are assessed by their peers as meeting the highest national and international standards for their research.

In addition, grant applicants are encouraged to consider the impact of their research through the assessment of Research Impact as part of the Track Record, relative to opportunity assessment criteria for Investigator Grants and Synergy Grants.

Types of research impact

NHMRC identifies four specific types of impact: knowledge impact, health impact, economic impact and social impact. Research may result in more than one type of impact.

Type of impact Description of research impact  Examples 

Health impact

Improvements in health through new therapeutics, diagnostics, disease prevention or changes in behaviour; or improvements in disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, management of health problems, health policy, health systems, and quality of life. 
  • policy or program adopted 
  • a clinical guideline adopted 
  • international or national practice standards adopted 
  • improved service effectiveness 
  • Phase I, Phase II and Phase III clinical trials underway or completed 
  • improved productivity due to research innovations (e.g. reduced illness, injury)
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years, Disability-Adjusted Life Years, Potential Years of Life Lost, Patient Reported Outcome Measures and other relevant indicators
  • relative stay index for multi-day stay patients, hospital standardised mortality ratio, cost per weighted separation and total case weighted separation
  • reports (including community and government)
Economic impact  Improvements in the nation’s economic performance through creation of new industries, jobs or valuable products, or reducing health care costs; improving efficiency in resource use, or improving the welfare/well-being of the population within current health system resources. An economic impact may also contribute to social or health impacts, including human capital gains and the value of life and health.  Health Care System Savings 
  • relative stay index for multi-day stay patients, hospital standardised mortality ratio, cost per weighted separation and total case weighted separation 
  • reduction in Medicare Benefits Schedule/Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme costs 
  • improved productivity due to research innovations (e.g. reduced illness, injury) 
  • improved service effectiveness 
Product Development 
  • a research contract with an industry partner and an active collaboration 
  • granting of a patent 
  • execution of a licensing agreement with an established company 
  • income from intellectual property 
  • raising funding from venture capital or other commercial sources or from government schemes that required industry co-participation 
  • successful exit from start-up company (public market flotation, merger or acquisition) 
  • development of pre-goods manufacturing practice prototype 
  • successful generation or submission of: 
  • a regulatory standard data set 
  • applications for pre-market approval of a medical device 
  • a new drug or device for registration (e.g. by Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency, Therapeutic Goods Administration) 
  • product sales 
Social impact  Improvements in the health of society, including the well-being of the end user and the community. This may include improved ability to access health care services; to participate socially (including empowerment and participation in decision making) and to quantify improvements in the health of society. 
  • uptake or demonstrated use of evidence by decision makers/policy makers 
  • qualitative measures demonstrating changes in behaviours, attitudes, improved social equity, inclusion or cohesion 
  • improved environmental determinants of health 
  • improved social determinants of health 
  • changes to health risk factors 
Knowledge impact  New knowledge demonstrating the benefits emerging from adoption, adaption or use of new knowledge to inform further research, and/or understanding of what is effective. 
  • recognition of research publications (e.g. citation metrics, particularly field weighted) 
  • data sharing 
  • contribution to registries or biobanks 
  • prizes and conference presentations 
  • uptake of research tools and techniques 
  • evidence of uptake of the research by other disciplines