Considerations for Impact Reporting
Well-described impacts are an essential part of our federal reporting requirements. They enable us to demonstrate to our partners, our funders and our fellow taxpayers that we are effectively using the resources they provide. Alaska Sea Grant recognizes that defining and documenting impacts is a new and unfamiliar task for many. It is new for us as well. If we can do it well, impact reporting will enable us to showcase the research that we support. We encourage our research partners to work with us in this effort, and to contact us for assistance at any time.
The National Sea Grant College Program defines impacts as "higher order, usually long-term results of a project's activities that have significant scientific, economic, or social benefits."
For Alaska Sea Grant, planning for maximum effective impact is an integral part of the research proposal process. By describing anticipated impacts of your research at the proposal stage, you are setting the stage for a successful project that contributes to Sea Grant's mission of service to Alaska.
The discussion below is intended to help proposers define and demonstrate the impacts of their work. It is not intended to be exhaustive. No particular example will be relevant to all proposals, and different proposals are expected to have different impacts. Proposers are urged to be creative in defining and demonstrating the impacts of their projects, and to consult Alaska Sea Grant staff for assistance as necessary.
Guidance for preparing Sea Grant impact statements
Adapted from the National Sea Grant GUIDANCE FOR PREPARING SEA GRANT IMPACT STATEMENTS, 03/18/2013.
Impact statements document the verifiable results of Sea Grant's work and how our efforts have made a difference in the lives of coastal residents, communities and environments. Impact reporting has become an increasingly important means of enhancing visibility, demonstrating accountability, generating support and building a reputation as a focused, productive and successful program. Impacts help decision-makers and constituents understand how our programs are making a difference, and enable the Sea Grant network to reflect on and improve our work.
These statements are used for state and national program evaluation, communication products and materials, and partnership building. Impacts are provided to national decision-makers and partners, including NOAA and Department of Commerce leadership, Congress, and the White House Office of Management & Budget. In addition, impacts are featured in national newsletters, national stories, social media, websites, and other communication products and materials.
Below are key considerations for writing clear, cogent and succinct impact statements.
Length and purpose
The statements should be brief (less than 250 words), use lay terms, and effectively describe the economic, societal and/or environmental benefits of Sea Grant's research, extension, education and communications work.
Impacts versus accomplishments
Impact statements should effectively describe the significant economic, societal and/or environmental benefits of your research, extension, education, or communications project.
Accomplishment statements effectively describe the key actions, activities or products resulting from research, extension, education, or communications work. These are distinct from impact statements in that they reflect ongoing activities or key results that may not yet have had a significant economic, societal and/or environmental benefit, but that lay the foundation for such a benefit.
A note about updates
When reporting a significant update on a previously reported impact, please note the year in which the update was realized. This will avoid the appearance that you are reporting the same impact more than once.
An impact statement should succinctly describe a project's contributions made to society. In considering this, two simple questions should be answered: Who cares? And, So what?
When writing an impact statement, consider the “4 R's … Relevance, Response, Results and Recap.” These headings serve as guidelines when drafting impacts; whether or not they are repeated in the actual text of an impact statement is up to you. The questions listed under the headings below are to help clarify the intent of each section and to provide structural guidance. There is no need to respond to every question listed.
- Relevance: Using lay terms, describe the issue or problem statement and the appropriate scale
(local, state, regional, national, or international). For example, consider:
- Why did you conduct this effort?
- What needs were originally expressed for this work?
- What was the situation or problem, and why was it a problem?
- Response: Provide an action statement. Consider:
- What did you do?
- Who were the principal partners, collaborators, contributors?
- What were the key elements?
- Who was the target audience?
- Results: Describe the impact by replying to the questions: Who cares? So what? Consider:
- What is the social, economic, and/or environmental payoff of your work?
- Who benefited?
- What happened as a result of the work described?
- What knowledge was gained?
- What skills were increased?
- Is the target audience doing anything differently? If so, who, what, or how?
- How much money was saved? Is more money being made?
- Were jobs created or retained?
- Were policies changed as a result?
- What were the end results (quantitative and qualitative)?
- How was information collected to verify the impacts (surveys, observation, etc.)?
- What was the scope of the impact (local, state, regional, national, or international)?
- Recap: Write a one-sentence recapitulation that captures the essence of the preceding three points.
- Double-check the Impacts versus accomplishments section above to ensure the impact is actually an impact.
- Impacts should be verifiable. Do not speculate on the potential impact or assume an impact has occurred.
- Ensure the impact occurred during the requested reporting period.
- Explicitly state Sea Grant's role in realizing the impact.
- Clearly describe the impact for a lay audience. Spell out all acronyms and avoid scientific jargon.
- Ensure the impact stands alone and can be understood without additional information.
- Keep the impact statement short and concise, preferably to 250 words or less.
Much of the information in this section has been adapted for Sea Grant purposes from several sources, notably Virginia Tech's Writing Effective Impact Statements: Who Cares? So What?
The following examples of well‐written impact statements are provided for illustrative purposes.
Title: Water Quality Improves at Gooch's Beach, Kennebunk, Maine
Relevance: Tourism is Maine's largest industry. Beach‐related spending by tourists is estimated to be over $500 million per year, supporting the employment of more than 8,000 people. High bacteria levels impair water quality, threaten public health and lead to advisories/closures of valued beaches.
Response: Routine monitoring of Gooch's Beach has resulted in more than 40 exceedances of bacteria safety standards since the town joined the Maine Healthy Beaches (MHB) program in 2003. Maine Sea Grant/Cooperative Extension coordinates MHB, and the program has supported studies and intensified monitoring to help pinpoint pollution sources and transport pathways affecting beach water quality. MHB and Maine Geological Survey conducted a circulation study of the Kennebunk River, which influences water quality on Gooch's Beach, and examined the relationship between bacteria and other parameters to define the worst‐case scenario for beach water quality. EPA scientists helped locate pollution sources, and a task force of MHB, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and municipal staff surveyed 31 priority properties. A 2009 workshop then built local capacity to find, fix and prevent sources of fecal pollution that degrade beach water quality.
Results: MHB data and technical assistance have supported the town's effort to improve the nearby stormwater drainage system, and to increase the number of properties serviced by the municipal sewer system. These and other actions taken throughout the watershed have resulted in measureable improvements in water quality.
Recap: MESG efforts improved beach water quality, enhanced recreational beach use and boosted the local tourism economy.
Title: Shrimp Industry Profitability Boosted by Fuel‐Saving Shrimp Trawler Technology
Relevance: Individual Gulf of Mexico shrimp trawlers consume between 50,000 and 80,000 gallons of diesel per year. Reducing operating expenses through reductions in fuel consumption will improve vessel profitability, thus buoying an industry that is struggling to compete with imports and high fuel prices.
Response: Since 2008, Texas Sea Grant specialists have been working with elite shrimp fishermen in the Gulf to evaluate new, fuel‐conserving vessel‐based technology for use by the shrimp fleet. Simultaneously, Texas Sea Grant is working with other Sea Grant programs to transfer these new technologies to other shrimp fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions.
Results: Reported fuel savings range from 20 to 39 percent. For the median trawler, expected annual fuel savings amount to roughly 19,000 gallons per season. Introduction of new trawl gear to the Texas fleet has allowed fishermen to save approximately 2.4 million gallons of fuel valued at $5.7 million in 2010 alone. Since 2008, the Texas shrimp fleet's fuel savings were estimated to be 7.3 million gallons or $17.7 million. An estimated 200 jobs were saved each year, since without these major fuels savings many of the boats would have remained idle.
Recap: Texas Sea Grant–sponsored experimental trawl gear resulted in 20 to 39 percent fuel savings for Texas shrimp fishermen.
Additional examples of possible impacts
- Change in individual or community behavior that improves economic or sociocultural sustainability.
- Adoption of a new or improved resource, economic or other model, especially if it improves decision-making.
- Improved cost savings or efficiencies in a business practice.
- Increased or improved resource availability to a user group.
- Increased opportunity to pursue a new or existing sustainable coastal business activity.
- Resolution of a resource conflict, especially if it leads to other impacts.
- Enhanced protection of a desired coastal community lifestyle or value.
- Creation of a new economically sustainable business venture that complements locally desired lifestyles or values.
- A demonstrable improvement in our basic scientific understanding of a marine species or ecosystem.