Who we are

Impact Centre

Who we are

The Impact Centre draws on diverse perspectives, skills and partnerships to generate, measure and communicate impactful research on critical challenges facing South Africa and the world. Many activities and partners contribute towards the vision of research impact in society. So, how does an organisation confidently say, ‘We did that’? This is one of the key questions the centre asks. We also look at contextualised conceptualisations of research impact and explore how the global North differs from the global South. The centre’s activities target interfaces between scientific knowledge, indigenous knowledge, scholarship, translation and interpretation, economic and social policy, and impact assessment. We work with public- and private-sector stakeholders to develop an understanding of scientific evidence and aim to stimulate public debate and engagement through communicating and disseminating fact-based findings to stakeholders and the public. The centre undertakes imaginative, timely and impactful projects and strives to improve access to knowledge, to enhance community ownership and use of research and to catalyse policy learning, innovation, and action.

What we do

Science in society

This unit collaborates with HSRC divisions and centres where opportunities arise to contribute to projects that require a focus on building stronger links between researchers, social partners, and the public. This internal engagement aims to strengthen links between the Impact Centre and other components of the organisation, and to build knowledge and capabilities related to the role of science in society. The unit aims to increase the visibility and impact of HSRC research through the publication and dissemination of products such as policy briefs, peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, thereby building the HSRC’s reputation as a centre for scholarship on science in society. The knowledge developed within this unit also finds application with other units in the Impact Centre. Through joint efforts, we develop communication strategies, produce communication outputs, translate research outputs into more widely accessible language, act as knowledge brokers in intellectual and policy spaces, and assists with impact assessments.

Impact assessment

The Impact Assessment group focuses on methodological issues, how to measure impact quantitatively and qualitatively. Impact is the effect of research-informed products, policies, and services on end users. It is measured by use metrics but also by changes in the lives of citizens, the health of the environment or social issues we address. Measuring impact requires a mix of methods that uses both qualitative and quantitative evaluation procedures to measure the social relevance of research and, more broadly, provide new thinking on the role of the social sciences and humanities within society. The objectives of the unit entail engagement with policymakers and researchers; setting agendas and common goals; packaging research syntheses; communicating and sharing advice; and monitoring impact. We aim to develop and use our in-house skills and expertise to facilitate wider awareness of the importance of measuring impact and of the methodologies that exist to accomplish this task.

Strategic partnerships

The HSRC’s work involves multiple stakeholders, including government and state bodies, academic institutions, science councils, corporate entities, civil society funders and the broader South African public. This unit aims to bring fitting partners on board early in the research process to leverage optimal research impact. Traditionally, once-off research projects, supported by international funding agencies, government departments or civil society organisations, were concluded and handed over without meaningful engagement about research use. The changing role and meaning of the contemporary research profession call for new forms of engagement. The greater the degree of involvement of strategic stakeholders in the research enterprise, the greater the chances that new knowledge generated will be used, that important projects can be resourced over multi-year periods, and that research will have community impact. This unit also has strong links with the Department of Science and Innovation, the National Research Foundation, other science councils, African institutions, as well as international embassies, universities and research institutions.

Communications and engagement

The communication team is responsible for using corporate communications tools to profile the work of the HSRC and its researchers on public communication platforms: the media, website, social media and other digital channels. The impact and value of the work of the team can be measured using the advertising value equivalent figures (obtained from media monitoring reports), the reach of a particular platform (obtained from its viewership, readership, listenership and engagement figures). The team is also the custodian of the HSRC’s brand and responsible for ensuring the application and alignment with the council’s corporate identity. Unit skills include science writing, media and social media communication, internal communication, brand management, design, photography, videography, and web content management.

Policy Action Network (PAN)

PAN was established in 2011 to help government and civil society partners in South Africa develop and implement transformative public policies by connecting them with relevant research, data and people. Supported by the Department of Science and Innovation, PAN has provided evidence support in several areas related to poverty alleviation and development. PAN works with partners to map and synthesise research, reporting and evaluation material. This helps policy actors understand how research can inform possible interventions and outcomes, and helps them identify research gaps. PAN also assists with identifying research, administrative and citizen-generated data to support decision-making, advises on data governance and provides training to encourage wider data use. Through these activities PAN supports community and government-led networks of knowledge exchange for social action.

Project Snapshots


Impact Centre

Our People