In their open letter to Research Councils UK, Donald Braben and his co-signatories urge peer reviewers to stage a "modest revolt" by declining to "assess" potential economic impact. It is worth being clear about what RCUK is asking applicants for and why. The primary assessment of proposals to RCUK continues to be research excellence. Impact plans are not designed to ask peer reviewers or applicants to predict future benefits; they are intended to ensure that applicants consider potential pathways to impact.
Not every piece of research will lead to impact in the short term. RCUK recognises that impacts from research can take many forms, come at different stages in the research life cycle and beyond, as well as being promoted in many different ways. Our impact plans will support researchers in identifying potential opportunities for deriving and achieving impact wherever possible.
As part of our ongoing interaction with the research community, I will be delighted to meet with Braben and his colleagues to further discuss the importance of impact.
As I have indicated in a previous article, "'You must spread the word'" (22 October), it is vital that we work together to make a strong and persuasive case for continued investment in research by the taxpayer. After a decade of sustained investment in research, we are facing a much more uncertain future, so making our case is crucial. The UK research community has a superb record of excellence with impact.
Alan J. Thorpe, Chair, Research Councils UK.