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Optimising Implementation for Impact

This session explored:

  • How implementation is supporting impact within academia, government, and non-profit organisations.
  • The importance of understanding change.
  • Where the different sectors are in their understanding and use of implementation for impact.
  • How a government department has developed and implemented an impact framework for research.

Many researchers worldwide are required to assess their research impact. Therefore, there is an ever-growing need to create opportunities for impact through effective skill building, planning, and implementation of new knowledge into practice for impact to be realised. Not all strategies are equal, and there have been many learnings in what works and what doesn’t work. The goal of this session is to explore the practicalities of how we get to impact. To do this, our three guest presenters will discuss their experiences, learnings and what they have seen to be most effective. This facilitated panel discussion will draw out common mistakes and lessons learned to help others avoid common issues and successfully optimise their own implementation activities.

Summary of Themes

Social licence to operate and openness and capacity for evidence-informed decision-making needed by organisations to achieve impact

  • Theory of change is a vital step in improving an organisation’s impact

Clear and commonly understood research problems to be identified to focus research scope and ensure relevant and usable solutions

  • Setting research priorities collaboratively (researchers, community stakeholders, funders) is especially important.  The relationship needs to be a respectful bringing together of knowledge that tends to be experiential and shorter-term, and knowledge that is research evidence-based and longer term.  Unless recognised and mitigated against, the power imbalance in a funder/provider relationship may inhibit the open exchange of ideas needed to optimise these dialogues

Quality relationships trumps all

  • Building relationships between decision-makers and researchers is key; but we still don’t know the best way to do that, or at the level in the system that this can best occur eg national, state, sector, individual collaborative partnership
  • Work with stakeholders essential – can be to assist them to have an evidence-base for their position, or can be to draw them into a community of practice around a research program 
  • Engagement plans can strengthen delivery – recognising the valuable role boundary organisations, teams and individuals play in the uptake and adoption of solutions, as well as identification and involvement of key beneficiaries and other periphery stakeholders in the research planning 

Impact planning is essential 

  • In order to successfully understand the breadth of the problem being addressed, as well as identifying what is seen as “value” by stakeholders across the research value chain
  • Tracking critical pathways is key – identifying and tracking the inputs, activities, outputs and outcomes essential to deliver impact is a necessary step in the impact planning process. The critical pathway provides a team with clear investment guidelines and/or scope in order to remain. 
  • Implementation science is helping to achieve impact, but is still in the early stages, and does not yet recognise complexity, or address the issue of gaining commitment to effective implementation and achieving impact
  • Ideas from organisation and management on change prevail (not surprisingly), in terms of commitment to evidence-informed work, measuring and achieving impact.  It requires leadership and engagement of workforce and other stakeholders
  • Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CIFR) mentioned several times as useful

Conclusion on state of play in Australia

  • Academic community is embracing the need to consider impact, not just research outcomes (varies greatly from institution to institution) but willingness of government departments, business and NFP to consider impact in an evidence-informed way is still in its infancy in Australia compared to the UK.
Further Resource
1.) Bammer, G., (ed) 2015 Change! Combining analytic approaches with street wisdom. ANU Press, Open access http://dx.doi.org/10.22459/CCAASW.07.2015
3.) i2S Resource https://i2s.anu.edu.au/resources/subject/change/
4) Five insights on achieving research impact by Niki Ellis, Anne-Maree Dowd, Tamika Heiden and Gabriele Bammer



Tamika Heiden

Dr Tamika Heiden is the Principal of the Research Impact Academy (https://researchimpactacademy.com/). She has more than a decade of career experience as a researcher and research manager in the fields of health, sport and medical research that began with a sports science degree and a PhD in Biomechanics. She has a certification’s in Knowledge Translation from the University of Toronto, and from the International School on Research Impact. Tamika is an honorary research fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria, an Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia, sits on the scientific committee for the Medical Research Foundation at Royal Perth Hospital, and has a formal partnership with SickKids Hospital in Toronto.

Tamika’s national and international work brings together researchers and research users to share, create and translate knowledge for the betterment of society. She has worked with many government and non-government organisations to facilitate high-level overviews and strategic thinking, particularly relevant to the Australian research funding landscape where she gave evidence to the Senate Committee enquiry for the Medical Research Future Fund.

Tamika won the 2018 award for Excellence in Knowledge Translation from the SickKids Learning Institute in Toronto and the Award for Innovation from the Institute for Knowledge Mobilization. Tamika has shared her knowledge with a variety of audiences at conferences and symposiums, run workshops, been published in numerous professional and academic journals, and been involved in the development of Knowledge Translation strategies at the organisational and project levels.


Gabriele Bammer 20x30cm AH1P3531

Professor Gabriele Bammer

Gabriele Bammer is developing the new discipline of Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S) to improve research strengths for tackling complex real-world problems (see i2s.anu.edu.au) and she curates the popular Integration and Implementation Insights blog (http://i2Insights.org). She is a professor in the Research School of Population Health at The Australian National University (ANU). She is an ANU Public Policy Fellow, an inaugural Fulbright New Century Scholar alumna and has held visiting appointments at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (2001-14), the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center at the University of Maryland (2015-2018) and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany (2019-2020), along with short-term appointments at ETH-Zurich and the Universitaet fuer Bodenkultur in Vienna. She co-convenes (with Michael Smithson) an edX Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on ‘Ignorance!’. Her books include Disciplining Interdisciplinarity: Integration and Implementation Sciences for Researching Complex Real-World Problems (author, 2013), Change! Combining analytic approaches with street wisdom (editor, 2015), Research Integration Using Dialogue Methods (co-author, 2009), and Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (co-editor, 2008).


Professor Niki Ellis

Professor Niki Ellis is an occupational and public health physician.  After working on public policy for ten years in both State and Federal governments, she worked in the private sector for another decade, initially building up her own consultancy practice in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.  She went into PricewaterhouseCoopers when she sold the business to them.  She returned from a few years in London working on health innovation for the UK Department of Health and London Southbank University, to take up the position of Foundation Chair and CEO of the Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health at the University of Queensland.  CMVH was funded by the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs to undertake research relevant to this sector’s needs.  Niki followed that with the role of Foundation Chair and Professor of the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research at Monash – which aimed to provide relevant and practical research to WorkSafe Victoria and the Transport Accident Commission and their stakeholders.

She has retained an adjunct appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash and sits on the boards of SuperFriend, Centre for Evidence and Implementation, DrinkWise and the Advisory Board of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Bond.  She is also the Work for Health Advisor for Comcare.  She has advocated for and supported the measurement of social impact by these organisations.


Dr Anne-Maree Dowd

Anne-Maree Dowd is the Executive Manager for Performance and Evaluation at CSIRO. She delivers all required performance reporting for CSIRO, as well as manages CSIRO’s Investment Decision Making and Impact Frameworks. Anne-Maree has strategic management, planning and performance expertise, monitoring and evaluation skills, and impact assessment capabilities. She holds a PhD in Organisational Psychology from the University of Queensland and has 16 years of experience in scientific research across multiple social science disciplines.