A world of worth from UK international development research

Adam Kamenetzky, Research Fellow, and Dr Saba Hinrichs, Senior Research Fellow at the Policy Institute at King’s, discuss efforts to investigate the impact of international development research conducted at UK universities.

What is the impact of research carried out to support international development and humanitarian relief efforts? What are the social returns on investment from this research, outside of academia? And how do these non-academic benefits relate to the delivery of ‘front line’ aid?

Keen to examine these questions, we responded to a challenge from the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS) to interrogate data on research impact submitted as part of the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise.

Unique in terms of its scale and setup, REF’s results dictate the allocation of approximately £1.6 billion of annual research funding across the UK’s universities. For the first time, one-fifth of the overall funding pot was determined on the basis of universities submitting case studies that described the non-academic impacts of their research (defined as any effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life’). Continue reading

The rise of Canary Wharf and London’s East End: Lessons for a changing capital

Jack Brown

Jack Brown is the Communications Coordinator for the Strand Group. He is currently undertaking a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London, on the topic of ‘The London Docklands Development Corporation and Canary Wharf: 1981 – 1998’. He is also a visiting Research Fellow at the Policy Institute at King’s.


Canary Wharf, once derided as ‘White Elephant Wharf’ by its critics in the early 1990s, now employs more bankers than the City of London. Canary Wharf Group, who run the estate, have ambitious plans to develop the adjacent Wood Wharf, featuring over 3,000 new homes, a primary school, NHS health facilities and a sports centre, alongside the more familiar office space. London’s second financial centre is certainly on the up, recently changing hands for £2.6 billion.

The transformation of the docklands of London’s East End, driven by the success of Canary Wharf, continues to be a controversial topic. My PhD research, to look at the work of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), established by Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine in 1981 to reverse the East End’s decline, provides a unique opportunity to tell its as-yet-untold story to an unprecedented extent. Continue reading

If British defence industry shrinks any more, the special relationship could be doomed

The new Conservative party’s pre-election manifesto included a commitment “to seek value for money in defence procurement, recognising the important contribution that the UK defence industry makes to our prosperity”. It also reminded us that Britain is currently meeting NATO’s target of spending 2% of gross domestic product on defence.

However, given what some see as inevitable post-election austerity cuts, the defence industry has good reason to worry. If austerity starts to eat into it, there will be real and pressing implications for the “special relationship” with the US.

We recently produced a study of the available evidence concerning the economic and strategic value of the UK’s defence industry. The study tested the basic premise that the UK’s domestic defence industry can contribute positively to the UK, not merely in terms of security benefits, but also in terms of economic benefits through increased employment, taxes, exports and spin-off effects. Continue reading

Diversity of disciplines drives research impact

One of the central questions of research policy is how to organise and carry out research in order to maximise the benefits that derive from it. This question prompts heated debate. Should we prioritise basic research over applied research or vice versa? Which disciplines are most impactful, and so deserving of most funding? Are there particular disciplines that should be favoured in order to align with national priorities for industrial strategy, or societal challenges? Important new insights on these questions are being revealed from the new dataset that is available following the Research Excellence Framework (REF); nearly 7000 case studies of impact from research are now available for mining and analysis. While the dataset has some limitations, the case studies still present an unprecedented opportunity to start to answer these questions. Continue reading

Three cheers for research users engaging in REF 2014

In the UK, research outputs from universities are assessed every five years to determine future funding allocations from government. In 2014, for the first time, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) included an assessment of research impact. This component was worth 20 per cent of the score awarded to each institution. The assessment was performed by panels of academics and research users.

The importance of research user engagement throughout the process of REF 2014 cannot be overstated. Research users, or those benefitting from publicly funded university research, played key roles throughout REF 2014 in several ways. Their evidence was needed to substantiate academics’ claims about the wider impact of university research – conveyed through impact case studies and strategies. Secondly, representatives from beneficiary organisations, like the British Library, the Overseas Development Institute, the BBC, Royal Museums Greenwich, Oxfam, BT, BAE Systems and the Bank of England served on the panels that assessed the impact of university research. So their role in engaging with REF 2014 has been vital to its success and important to the future of the process. Continue reading