British Politics

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 361–373 | Cite as

The impact agenda and the study of British politics

  • Richard Hayton
Original Article


This article attempts to discern the nature of impact in relation to the British politics sub-field of political studies. It reviews evidence from REF2014 to establish how political scientists working in this area understood and tried to demonstrate impact. It critically appraises how the impact agenda is affecting how research into British politics is prioritised, undertaken and disseminated, and questions whether this is a good thing for the sub-discipline. The implications of this for the shape of British politics research going forward are considered. While welcoming the possibility of a re-centring of scholarly attention on British politics, the article cautions against a retreat to the parameters of the British Political Tradition and the Westminster Model view.


Impact Engagement Research Excellence Framework (REF) British politics Westminster Model 



I am very grateful to Jonathan Dean, the anonymous reviewers and the journal editors for their comments on a draft of this article.


  1. Bachrach, P., and M. Baratz. 1962. Two faces of power. The American Political Science Review, 56: 947–952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beech, M. 2012. State of the discipline: British politics in a cold climate. British Politics 7 (1): 4–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brooks, T. 2013. In defence of political theory: Impact and opportunities. Political Studies Review 11: 209–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Campbell, R., and S. Childs. 2013. The impact imperative: Here come the women :-). Political Studies Review 11 (2): 182–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Collini, S. 2012. What are universities for? London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  6. Cushion, S., and R. Sambrook. 2015. The ‘horse-race’ contest dominated TV news election coverage. In UK election analysis 2015: Media, voters and the campaign, ed. D. Jackson, and E. Thorsen. Bournemouth: CSJCC.Google Scholar
  7. Dean, J. 2016. Do academics have a Corbyn problem? PSA blog, 3 October.
  8. Davies, H., Nutley, S., & Walter, I. 2005. Assessing the impact of social science research: Conceptual, methodological and practical issues. Discussion paper for ESRC Symposium on Assessing Non-Academic Impact of Research May 2005. Retrieved 15 April 2017, from
  9. Flinders, M. 2013a. The tyranny of relevance and the art of translation. Political Studies Review 11 (2): 149–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Flinders, M. 2013b. The politics of engaged scholarship: impact, relevance and imagination. Policy & Politics 41 (4): 621–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Flinders, M., M. Wood, and M. Cunningham. 2016. The politics of co-production: Risks, limits and pollution. Evidence & Policy 12 (2): 261–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Flinders, M., A. Gamble, C. Hay, and M. Kenny. 2009. The Oxford handbook of British politics. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gamble, A. 1990. Theories of British politics. Political Studies 38 (3): 404–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Geddes, M., K. Dommett, and B. Prosser. 2017. A recipe for impact? Exploring knowledge requirements in the UK Parliament and beyond. Evidence & Policy. Scholar
  15. Hammersley, M. 2014. The perils of ‘impact’ for academic social science. Contemporary Social Science 9 (3): 345–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holmwood, J. 2017. Monstrous markets: neo-liberalism, populism and the demise of the public university. In Here be Monsters’: Science, ed. Brigitte Nerlich, Alexander Smith, Sarah Hartley, and Sujatha Raman. Politics and the Dilemmas of Openness, Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Holmwood, J. (forthcoming) Open access, ‘publicity’ and democratic knowledge. In Martin Eve and Jonathan Grey (eds) Constellations of Knowledge: The Past, Present and Future of Open Access and Scholarly Communication. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hughes, A., and M. Kitson. 2012. Pathways to impact and the strategic role of universities: new evidence on the breadth and depth of university knowledge exchange in the UK and the factors constraining its development. Cambridge Journal of Economics 36 (3): 723–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Isaac, J. 2015. For a More Public Political Science. Perspectives on Politics 13 (2): 269–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jennings, W. and Lodge, M. 2016. The Failures of Political Science: Trump, Brexit and beyond. Political Insight blog, 13 November.
  21. Kenny, C. 2015. The impact of academia on Parliament: 45 percent of Parliament-focused impact case studies were from social sciences. London School of Economics impact blog,
  22. Kerr, P., and S. Kettell. 2006. In defence of British politics: The past, present and future of the discipline. British Politics 1 (1): 3–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mance, H. 2016. Britain has had enough of experts, says Gove. Financial Times, 3 June.
  24. Moran, M. 2017. The end of British politics?. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Randall, V. 2012. Studying British politics: The best of intentions not always realised. British Politics 7 (1): 17–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. REF2014 2015. REF 2014: Overview Report by Main Panel C and Sub-Panels 16–26.
  27. Richards, D., and M. Smith. 2015. In defence of British politics against the British political tradition. Political Quarterly 86 (1): 41–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Smith, K., and E. Stewart. 2017. We need to talk about impact: Why social policy academics need to engage with the UK’s research impact agenda. Journal of Social Policy 46 (1): 109–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Teele, D., and K. Thelen. 2017. Gender in the journals: Publication patterns in political science. PS. Political Science & Politics 50 (2): 433–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Vincent, A. 2015. The ideological context of impact. Political Studies Review 13 (4): 474–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Watermeyer, R. and Lewis, J. 2017. Why universities and academics should bother with public engagement. The Conversation, 22 February.

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeedsLeedsUK

Personalised recommendations