Is there an I in Impact? Considering the two-way process of public engagement.


  • Isabelle Heyerick Institute of Advanced Studies, Centre of Applied Linguistics University of Warwick



REF, Impact, Public engagement, critical reflection, sign language, research design


This article is a critical reflection on public engagement and the concept of impact in UK research institutions, based on a recent experience. The UK impact agenda, driven by the Research Excellence Framework (REF), requires researchers to engage with the public in order to potentially have an impact on society.  This, I argue, constitutes the implicit directionality of impact as a one-way process. Recently, I provided a workshop for Flemish Sign Language (VGT) interpreters entitled ‘I interpret, therefore I am’ at the Faculty of Arts of the KU Leuven (Antwerp, Belgium). The aim of the workshop, in line with the impact agenda, was to increase participants’ awareness about the interpreting process and change their perception of how an interpreter’s personal beliefs potentially influence his/her linguistic choices. However, interacting with the participants also had an impact on my current research design and me as a researcher. This particular experience led me to reconsider the implicit idea of impact as a one-way process. In what follows I argue that, impact can and - in my opinion - should be a two-way process, encouraging interaction with the public in order to have a valuable impact on society, research and the researcher.

Isabelle Heyerick was a WIRL-COFUND Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Warwick supported by funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, under the Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions COFUND programme (grant agreement number 713548).


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