Real Impact

 Early career researcher (ECR) recognition

Award status: Closed
Open: Later on in 2024

This subcategory to driving the impact agenda award recognises the efforts of early career researchers (ECRs) in trying to challenge the status quo around the research impact agenda.

ECRs are often the ones with the greatest appetite for change, but battling against traditional markers of success, and established ways of working. In our 2022 Time for Change report, over a third of 1–5-year post-PhD researchers said the biggest challenges of changing the way research impact is assessed is the low buy-out from research organisations to invest in developing a healthy environment for research impact due to other competing priorities.

With this award, we want to celebrate ECRs who are making this cultural shift a reality, one in which impact is seen as an integral part of academic life. This award is not necessarily about a research project itself but your approach, processes or practices you have implemented within the last 5 years, to do things differently and change outdated traditions or challenge the norms within academia. Maybe you have initiated new measures to improve the impact culture within your institution or perhaps found new opportunities to showcase your achievements? How have you been empowered and what have been the drivers to make you want to do things differently?

On this page

What do we mean by real impact?
Impact is the provable effects of research in the real world. It is the changes we can see (demonstrate, measure, capture), beyond academia (in society, economy, environment), which happen because of our research (caused by or contributed to).

Eligibility criteria

This award is solely for those who were awarded their PhD (Viva year) between 2018 and 2022.

What do we mean by real impact?

We refer to impact as the provable effects of research in the real world. It's not judged by traditional methods – such as citations – simply appraised by factors we can see and feel in wider society.

Impact emerges differently across various disciplines, but ultimately it is about connecting academic research to the world around us.

Submission form questions

  1. The background
    Briefly explain why you are committed to driving the impact agenda and challenging the status quo around the research impact agenda. (max 200 words)
  2. The implementation
    Outline what process/practice you have devised and implemented to ensure that non-academic impact is seen as an integral part of academic life and, if available, what changed because of this implementation. (Note, if this is too early in the implementation phase, outline clear and well-thought outcome plans.) (max 500 words)
  3. The outcome
    Clearly articulate how your implementation is addressing your research environment’s unmet needs for the development and application of a healthy research impact mindset. (max 200 words)

Judging process

The judging process for this award will be completed in two parts.

Stage 1 - All eligible entries will be shared with the allocated judges for this category and scored based on the criteria below. A shortlist of entries (finalists) will be decided based on the highest scores received. All judging is anonymous and only your written entry is shared with the judging panel.

Stage 2 – The finalists have the opportunity to provide further information and evidence based on the judges feedback. There will be a second judging session where all additional information and scorecard from the first round will be discussed and from this a winner and two highly commended entries will be decided.

Judging criteria

Clarity: How clearly has the nominee explained their commitment to driving the impact agenda and challenging the status quo through their entry? * (10 points)

Focus: How well has the process/practice being implemented been explained and any potential benefits as a result of these changes. (Note points should also be awarded for well-thought outcome plans if it’s too early for change to have happened) * (20 points)

Innovation: How innovative is their approach to embedding impact or influencing change? * (10 points)

*Submissions will also be judged on how clear the entries are written, and how engaging and free from jargon they are for a non-specialist audience.


One overall winner

Winner will receive:

  • Their impact commitment celebrated through a case study written by our specialist editors; each case study will form part of our Real Impact Awards Showcase publication, a copy of which will be provided to each winner and highly commended.
  • An invitation to a celebration event in 2023.
  • A certificate and physical award.
  • Inclusion in a global social campaign once the Showcase Book has been finalised, which will put the spotlight on each of the winner’s stories and their commitment to impact.


2022/3 award winner

Amplifying Conservation Through Participatory Design

Dr Gabriela Nuri Baron is a Design Strategist from the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her mission is to make a difference in the world by improving conservation initiatives from the grassroots level.

Read the full case study


Dr Gabriela Baron, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Take a look at our other award categories