Tracking stakeholder engagement and research impact

Community member post by Cathy Day

Cathy Day (biography)

Is there an easy and efficient way to keep track of stakeholder engagement and research impact?

My colleagues and I have developed a system with two components: (1) noting engagement and impact soon after they occur and (2) recording them in a way that enables the information to be extracted for whatever purpose is required. I describe the tracking spreadsheet, the recording process we use and then how the spreadsheet is used for reporting.

Tracking spreadsheet

The Microsoft Excel tracking spreadsheet has two parts: (1) the engagement or impact and (2) the research to which these are related. These are arranged in columns, which can be adapted for the needs of any particular group.

As shown in the extract from the spreadsheet below, the columns we use for engagement and impact are:

  • date of engagement/impact
  • activity
  • details
  • engagement (Yes/No)
  • impact (Yes/No)
  • lead researcher
  • other researchers.

For ‘activity’ we use a one- or two-word description selected from a dropdown list for the following activities:

  • media engagement (writing for or speaking about research)
  • media interest (report by the media on our research, without involving the researcher)
  • department contact (working with a national or state government body)
  • government contact (meeting or working with members of parliament)
  • stakeholder engagement
  • commissioned work
  • appointment (to a statutory or advisory body)
  • keynote address
  • conference presentation.

By minimising choice here, we can search and sort efficiently, depending on the particular purposes, such as university reporting requirements.

Extract from a tracking spreadsheet showing engagement (Eng) and impact (Imp) (supplied by Cathy Day)

As can be seen in the extract from the spreadsheet below, the columns we use for research are:

  • theme
  • project or sub-theme
  • paper/research/presentation
  • date of research
  • project identifier (not shown)
  • notes (not shown).

Our research group categorises all our investigations into broad, overarching themes such as ‘indigenous health’, ‘cardiovascular disease’ or ‘methods’, and these are provided in a drop-down list. The sub-theme or project column offers more detailed options such as ‘tobacco’, ‘social inequalities’, and ‘big data’.

Extract from a tracking spreadsheet showing research (supplied by Cathy Day)

Recording engagement and impact

Our entire research group meets fortnightly to keep each other informed of our work, to share ideas and to report to each other on all aspects of progress. These fortnightly group meetings include a standing agenda item on engagement and impact. At this point in the meeting, researchers inform each other of activity within the last fortnight including media coverage of their research, stakeholder engagement, advice provided to federal and state government agencies, collaborations with health-related non-government organisations and advocacy groups, changes in health practice based on their research and meetings with government ministers and members of parliament. This information is briefly noted in the meeting minutes.

A summary of this activity is then entered into the tracking spreadsheet by the research support team. Since this reporting happens on a fortnightly basis, the information is fresh in the researchers’ minds and detail is unlikely to be forgotten.

Reporting on engagement and impact

The columns were developed based on the variety of ways the group is required to report engagement and impact. It allows sorting by date of research or date of impact, as required, and can be filtered by the project identifier, in order to meet various reporting needs. For example, it can identify all activities for the group in a calendar year, or all activities led by a certain researcher, or all activities associated with a project or published paper.

The tracking spreadsheet allows for ambiguity (eg., imprecision in the date) and flexibility. For example, the two main Australian funding agencies categorise engagement and impact differently. The Australian Research Council defines ‘engagement’ as a subset of ‘impact’, while Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council considers them to be separate outcomes. The tracking spreadsheet allows activity to be engagement or impact or both, and no column has to be filled in, to allow for engagement or impact that doesn’t fall neatly into the categories.


The use of a standardised, centralised repository for recording engagement and impact soon after it occurs has enabled the group to:

  • rapidly answer ad hoc queries about research, such as ‘what has been the impact of the group’s work on smoking by indigenous Australians?’
  • formally report to various funding agencies
  • help researchers frame their promotion applications.

Reflections on these reports have, in turn, enabled the group to identify the strategies for maximising stakeholder engagement and research impact.

What strategies have you found useful for keeping track of stakeholder engagement and/or research impact?

Biography: Cathy Day PhD is Research Manager of the Epidemiology for Policy and Practice Group in the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Research School of Population Health at The Australian National University.

Cathy Day is a member of blog partner PopulationHealthXchange, which is in the Research School of Population Health at The Australian National University.

Trust and empowerment inventory for community groups

Community member post by Craig Dalton

Author - Craig Dalton
Craig Dalton (biography)

Community groups are often consulted by researchers, government agencies and industry. The issues may be contentious and the relationship vexed by distrust and poor communication. Could an inventory capture the fundamental sources of community frustration and highlight scope for improvement in respect, transparency, fairness, co-learning, and meeting effectiveness from a community perspective?

The trust and empowerment inventory presented below is based on the main sources of community frustration that I have witnessed over two decades as a public health physician and researcher liaising with communities about environmental health risks and it is likely to have broader relevance. Key issues include not being listened to; not being fully informed; Continue reading

A flexible framework for stakeholder engagement

Community member post by Michelle Banfield

Michelle Banfield (biography)

How can stakeholder engagement in research be effectively planned? What parameters need to be taken into account? How can flexibility be built in to accommodate different levels of researcher and stakeholder experience?

The framework presented here was developed for health services research, but is more broadly applicable. The framework has three separate dimensions.

  1. The stakeholders to involve
  2. The stages of the research at which they will be involved
  3. The level of involvement for each stakeholder group at each stage.

Continue reading

Four strategies for improving knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers

Community member post by Chris Cvitanovic

Chris Cvitanovic (biography)

How can we improve knowledge exchange among scientists and decision-makers to facilitate evidence informed decision-making? Of course there is no one size fits all approach, but here I outline four strategies that could be adapted and implemented across different contexts: (i) knowledge co-production, (ii) embedding, (iii) knowledge brokers, and (iv) boundary organisations. These are illustrated in the figure below.

Knowledge co-production

Perhaps the most widely advocated approach to achieving improved knowledge exchange, knowledge co-production refers to the process whereby decision-makers actively participate in scientific research programs from the onset, collaborating with researchers throughout every aspect of the study including design, implementation and analysis. Continue reading

Conditions for co-creation

Community member post by Gabriele Bammer

This is part of a series of occasional “synthesis blog posts” drawing together insights across blog posts on related topics.

Gabriele Bammer (biography)

What is required for effective co-creation, especially between researchers and stakeholders? In particular, what contributes to a productive environment for co-creation? And what considerations are relevant for deciding who to involve?

Twelve blog posts which have addressed these issues are discussed. Bringing those insights together provides a richer picture of how to achieve effective co-creation.

What makes a productive environment for co-creation?

A good starting point is to be working in an environment and organizational culture that support co-creation and to have sufficient financial, personnel and other resources, as pointed out by Kit Macleod and Arnim Wiek.

Dialogue-based processes are often an important part of co-creation and they need to be established as a generative space, focused on synergy, not conflict. Continue reading

Producing evaluation and communication strategies in tandem

Community member post by Ricardo Ramírez and Dal Brodhead

Ricardo Ramírez (biography)

How can projects produce evaluation and communication strategies in tandem? Why should they even try? A major benefit of helping projects produce evaluation and communication strategies at the same time is that it helps projects clarify their theories of change; it helps teams be specific and explicit about their actions. Before returning to the benefits, let us begin with how we mentor projects to use this approach. Continue reading