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PhD Year 2 Cohort Day: Impact

Reetika chats about our last big pre-covid event: PhD Year 2 Cohort Day - Impact!


Reetika Suri



Reetika is a Research Impact Officer at Queen Mary University of London, specialising in health and the biosciences.

Every year Queen Mary University of London runs a cohort day for all year 2 PhD students focused on impact. We find that students in the 2nd year of their PhDs are in the right frame of mind to start thinking about the impact of their research. They are all settled in, have a fairly good understanding of what their projects are about and have maybe even started to collect some data. We also find that this a great forum to bring students together from across our campuses, faculties and schools and get them talking to each other.

Our PhD Year 2 Cohort Day on impact ran in February this year. We started our day talking about ‘What is impact?’ and why PhD students should care about it:


Impact can look very different for different disciplines and projects so it really helped to have a bit of a discussion about what the various types of impact are, for example, legal, environmental or economic. It also helped to clarify the difference between a pathway to impact, for example, a patent, public engagement or media interest and the demonstrable change brought about by the research, for example, the exploitation of a patent to produce a product that is being sold and used or a change in awareness, understanding or behaviour of a group of people.

We then sent our PhD students off on an impact orienteering exercise. Students were given an orienteering card on which to collect 3 stickers for the impacts of their research from our tables around the room. In doing so they had to chat with members of the Impact Team about examples of the impacts of their work, relevant to the table, to add to their cards.


For the final part of our day we asked our students to sit at one of the tables from their 3 types of impact, work together to choose a project at that table and create an impact poster for the project. We had some fantastic posters which highlighted the What, Who, How and When of projects that had health, political and legal, technological, cultural, societal, environmental and economic impacts.

Part of the Impact Team’s remit is to develop an impact culture here at Queen Mary. Talking to PhD students about impact from early on in their careers is an important part of this as they are our future research leaders. Thus, we were keen to use our PhD Year 2 Cohort day on impact to examine attitudes to impact training at PhD student level using a survey. We found that of the students that responded (45.1%), 4.3% came from our Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) faculty, 20.4% from our Medicine and Dentistry (SMD) faculty and 20.4% from our Science and Engineering (S&E) faculty.

The data we have collected from our PhD Year 2 Cohort Day on impact in 2020 has left us with two questions to explore further:

  • How can we, in the Impact Team, engage with and encourage more PhD students from our HSS faculty to take an interest in the impact of their research?
  • How can we, in the Impact Team, work with supervisors to encourage and train Queen Mary’s PhD students in developing impact plans?

Queen Mary’s Impact Team is actively collecting and analysing data on our current impact training provision with the aim of improving it for the future. You can get in touch with the Research Impact team with your impact training questions and concerns by emailing or visit our webpages:




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