Abstract

While funders increasingly request evidence of the societal benefits of research, all academics in the UK must periodically provide this information to gain part of their block funding within the Research Excellence Framework (REF). The impact case studies produced in the UK are public and can therefore be used to gain insights into the types of sources used to justify societal impact claims. This study focuses on the URLs cited as evidence in the last public REF to help researchers and resource providers to understand what types can be used and the disciplinary differences in their uptake. Based on a new semiautomatic method to classify the URLs cited in impact case studies, the results show that there are a few key online types of source for most broad fields, but these sources differ substantially between subject areas. For example, news websites are more important in some fields than others, and YouTube is sometimes used for multimedia evidence in the arts and humanities. Knowledge of the common sources selected independently by thousands of researchers may help others to identify suitable sources for the complex task of evidencing societal impacts.

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