Impact beyond academia

About impact beyond academia

Impact beyond academia (sometimes called “research impact” or “societal impact”) is the effect your work has on areas like the economy, society, environment, or culture.

While academic impact is often measured by citations in academic journals, impact beyond academia can be harder to measure, because it can show up in a lot of different ways. 

Track your own evidence

Planning for the type of evidence you will need ahead of time is the most effective way to approach gathering evidence of impact. Not everything can be found retrospectively, so it is best to keep track of any evidence for the impact of your work as you go along.

Some helpful measures of impact to collect and cite include:

  • awards and prizes
  • conference presentations and keynotes
  • editorships (journals, books and other publications)
  • memberships
  • partnerships with other organisations and institutions
  • fellowships and affiliations
  • other non-traditional research outputs.

You can use tools to track your own evidence. These tools include:

  • Impact tracker: a cloud-based software platform that allows researchers, academics and professional staff to easily identify, capture and manage institutional research data. It is a unique framework that allows the user to develop and track impact case studies and support them with evidence. For more information contact
  • Qualtrics: an online survey tool that can be used to capture feedback and participation.

Types of impact

Your research can have wide-ranging impacts. Here are some of the main types:

  • Cultural impact is the effect of cultural works on organisations, groups or society. Impact could be on prevailing values, attitudes, beliefs, discourse or patterns of behaviour, whether explicit (e.g. codified in rules of law) or implicit (e.g. rules of thumb or accepted practices).
  • Economic impact includes changes in economic performance, including job creation, industry growth, resource productivity, and improving welfare or health systems.
  • Environmental impact refers to contributions to the management of natural resources, environmental pollution, climate and meteorology.
  • Health impact is a contribution to health policy, health systems, and quality of life. It can include new treatments or protocols, as well as improvements in disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Knowledge impact demonstrates the benefit of new thinking and ideas that has informed further research, and/or understanding of what is effective.
  • Social impact can refer to improvements in the health or well-being of society. It could include developing, or giving access to, services which improve health or otherwise empower members of society.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has published a position statement on health innovation and research impact.

Impact measures and tools

Different tools can find and measure different types of impact. Some can be used for a wide range of different types of information, while others are more specific. 

General tools

  • Altmetric Explorer tracks engagement with your work in online sources including public policy documents, media, patents, social media, blogs and post-publication peer review platforms. 
  • PlumX Metrics gathers and brings together appropriate research metrics and altmetrics for all types of scholarly research output. Currently available when searching Scopus
  • The Metrics Toolkit can help you understand a specific disciplinary metric by explaining; how the metric is calculated; where to find it; and whether it's appropriate for you.
  • Use Google or Google Scholar to search for mentions across freely available online documents, publications, and websites from international and domestic organisations, non-governmental groups or governments.

Specific Tools

There are many tools to measure your societal impact. See below for specific tools that can evaluate your work.


Books may produce impacts that aren’t well captured by conventional academic metrics, such as citation counts. 

  • Books held in libraries: You can find book holdings in library catalogues, such as Trove (Australian libraries) & WorldCat (international libraries). The holdings count is calculated as the number of unique libraries that own a copy of a book. 
  • Book reviews: Book reviews can be sourced in newspapers, journals and trade magazines. Search Library databases within your discipline area.  Multidisciplinary databases such as Factiva and ProQuest Central are a good place to start.

Cultural works

Demonstrating the impact of cultural works can require some planning. Use Impact Tracker or a personal eNotebook to track measures as you go.  

Data sharing and data 

Data can be used within or outside of academia. In most cases, data citation is evidence of knowledge impact. Search for mentions in Google Dataset Search, DataCite Commons, Research Data Finder  or institutional repositories such as Sydney eScholarship repository.

Government publications and reports

Find references to your research in government reports and strategy documents:

  • By searching directly on government websites
  • By searching either your name or the title of your paper in a Google Advanced Search
  • For Australian government reports you may also find references to your research in Informit Online.

Legislation, regulations, submissions to parliamentary inquiries

Have you provided submissions to parliamentary inquiries? Has your research influenced changes in legislation or regulations? Search Capitol Monitor for mentions in both state and federal jurisdictions.

Media mentions

News media mentions can demonstrate the reach and attention paid to your research, particularly if the source is high profile or regionally relevant. The following resources can help find media reports of your research.

Metrics Toolkit

The Metric Toolkit is a good way of understanding your metrics, including how a metric is calculated, where to find it, and whether it’s appropriate for you.


You can find indicators of patent impact, including:


Find any policy mentions of your research:

  • By searching directly on government, intergovernmental and non-government organisation websites. 
  • By searching either your name or the title of your paper as an Google Advanced Search.
  • Policy mentions are also found in altmetric tools such as PlumX Metrics or Altmetrics Explorer.
  • For Australian policy you may also find references to your research in Informit Online.

Practice Guidelines

Find evidence of your research cited in practice guidelines:

Consensus Statements

Consensus Statements can be used to support newly available evidence and can demonstrate influence on the re-evaluation of medical practice or procedures. They can also be found in medicine and health databases such as ScopusMedline, and Embase.