Evaluating cancer research impact: lessons and examples from existing reviews on approaches to research impact assessment

Hanna, C. R. , Boyd, K. A. and Jones, R. J. (2021) Evaluating cancer research impact: lessons and examples from existing reviews on approaches to research impact assessment. Health Research Policy and Systems, 19, 36. (doi: 10.1186/s12961-020-00658-x) (PMID:33706777) (PMCID:PMC7953786)

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Background: Performing cancer research relies on substantial financial investment, and contributions in time and effort from patients. It is therefore important that this research has real life impacts which are properly evaluated. The optimal approach to cancer research impact evaluation is not clear. The aim of this study was to undertake a systematic review of review articles that describe approaches to impact assessment, and to identify examples of cancer research impact evaluation within these reviews. Methods: In total, 11 publication databases and the grey literature were searched to identify review articles addressing the topic of approaches to research impact assessment. Information was extracted on methods for data collection and analysis, impact categories and frameworks used for the purposes of evaluation. Empirical examples of impact assessments of cancer research were identified from these literature reviews. Approaches used in these examples were appraised, with a reflection on which methods would be suited to cancer research impact evaluation going forward. Results: In total, 40 literature reviews were identified. Important methods to collect and analyse data for impact assessments were surveys, interviews and documentary analysis. Key categories of impact spanning the reviews were summarised, and a list of frameworks commonly used for impact assessment was generated. The Payback Framework was most often described. Fourteen examples of impact evaluation for cancer research were identified. They ranged from those assessing the impact of a national, charity-funded portfolio of cancer research to the clinical practice impact of a single trial. A set of recommendations for approaching cancer research impact assessment was generated. Conclusions: Impact evaluation can demonstrate if and why conducting cancer research is worthwhile. Using a mixed methods, multi-category assessment organised within a framework, will provide a robust evaluation, but the ability to perform this type of assessment may be constrained by time and resources. Whichever approach is used, easily measured, but inappropriate metrics should be avoided. Going forward, dissemination of the results of cancer research impact assessments will allow the cancer research community to learn how to conduct these evaluations.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Jones, Professor Robert and Hanna, Catherine and Boyd, Dr Kathleen
Authors: Hanna, C. R., Boyd, K. A., and Jones, R. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Cancer Sciences
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > Health Economics and Health Technology Assessment
Journal Name:Health Research Policy and Systems
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1478-4505
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in Health Research Policy and Systems 19: 36
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
174279CRUK CTU Glasgow - Clinical Trial FellowshipCatherine HannaCancer Research UK (CRUK)C61974/A24293Institute of Cancer Sciences