Making a difference: Impact report 2017

Creating evidence that will influence policy or other stakeholders

Chapter Four

Creating evidence that will influence policy or other stakeholders


For research to make a difference, its findings needs to be shared with a wider audience, so that it can inform the public, stimulate new ways of working and influence policy. For many charities, supporting researchers who are willing to engage with policy makers is vital to ensure that the findings generated by research are acted upon. Influencing can be split into two aspects:

Key stats

Influence on policy and practice

Policy influences include citations in clinical guidelines or other policy documents, the provision of expert advice to government committees or influence on the training of health professionals.

9% (499) of 5,287 awards generated 1,120 policy and practice influences. 1,016 of these were unique [1]

There was a wide variety of different ways to influence policy and practice:

Figure 12 Figure 12. Breakdown of influences on policy and practice

Other influence types % of Influences on Policy
Citation in other policy documents 5%
Participation in advisory committee 5%
Citation in clinical reviews 3%
Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health 3%
Gave evidence to a government review 3%
Membership of a guidance committee 2%
Citation in systematic reviews 1%

Figure 13. Breakdown of influences on policy and practice

For further information see appendix 1.

Case study: Tenovus Cancer Care

Following research findings new guidance was issued to all UK radiotherapy departments to improve the safety of cancer patients with implanted cardiac devices.

With an ageing population, the number of people with cardiac devices such as pacemakers who are also undergoing treatment for cancer is increasing. Whilst most medical treatments pose little danger to people with cardiac devices, radiotherapy can cause them to malfunction. Consequences of this can be serious, as electrical breakdown in the device may result in failure of the heart.

Tenovus funded researcher Lauren Evans and colleagues discovered that there were no UK wide guidelines for the use of radiotherapy in cancer patients fitted with cardiac devices, and that policies (where in place) were based on old evidence and did not take into account subsequent advances in device technology. Working in conjunction with pacemaker manufacturers and Cardiff University, Lauren undertook a series of experiments to determine the effects of radiation and electromagnetic interference upon cardiac devices.

Lauren was invited to the committee for the development of a new guideline to support the safe management of patients with a Cardiac Implanted Electronic Device (CIED) who are receiving radiotherapy. Lauren was one of the authors of the resulting guideline titled ‘Radiotherapy Management of Cancer Patients with a CIED: A Clinical Guideline’ published in 2015 which is based on current best evidence, and can be adapted to suit local practice in radiotherapy departments. Tenovus Cancer Care This new guidance will greatly improve the safety of all patients with cardiac devices that need radiotherapy.

Engagement activities

Researchers play a key role in explaining the importance of research to wider populations. The area of engagement has been one where researchers have been active for the last decade, and it is the category with the second highest number of outputs (after publications) linked to charity-funded research.

38% (1,998) of 5,287 awards generated 9,917 engagement activities, 8,446 of these were unique [1:1]

Types of engagement activities:

For further information see appendix 1.

Case study: Action on Hearing Loss

Appearances on BBC’s See Hear allowed researchers to explain their work on a possible new stem cell based treatment for deafness.

Around 1 in 6 people in the UK have some form of hearing loss and nearly one million of these people are severely or profoundly deaf. Most forms of deafness involve a loss of the sensory hair cells or auditory nerve cells that change sound waves in the air into information our brains can understand. When these cells die they are not replaced, meaning that this type of hearing loss is currently irreversible.

Action on Hearing LossFor the last ten years Action on Hearing Loss has funded Professor Marcelo Rivolta, to investigate whether stem cells can be used to replace the lost cells and restore hearing. In 2012 Professor Rivolta’s team published a key paper in Nature showing they had successfully achieved this in a gerbil model of deafness.

The team was featured twice on BBC See Hear, a program for the deaf and hard of hearing, which is presented in sign language. This allowed them to explain, in an engaging and accessible way, their research and the impact it could have. Public feedback suggested the research had been clearly explained and there were numerous requests for more information.

“Support from AoHL gave me the opportunity to directly address the potential beneficiaries, i.e. the hearing impaired community. I have been able to explain what we are trying to achieve in a simple but realistic way. This has been critical to raise awareness about what is laying ahead, but without rising unreasonable expectations”. Researcher Perspective


  1. Unique outputs refer to the actual number of outputs generated. The number of total outputs is higher because this figure includes outputs that have been attributed to more than one award. ↩︎ ↩︎