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Table 4 Units of analyses for included studies

From: Looking both ways: a review of methods for assessing research impacts on policy and the policy utilisation of research

Assessments starting with research Assessments starting with a policy outcome
Research project: Research conducted by a single research team. Has a defined start and end-point and limited set of research findings [17]. Basic unit of funding for most research funding schemes. Data is collated on a per project basis. Impacts from multiple projects may be summed to provide an overall estimate of impact for a portfolio of research
Programme of research: Multiple research projects linked by research topic area (different researchers/research teams) or through the lead investigator or research team conducting the research (common topic area and research team). Impacts reported in relation to the entire programme rather than in relation to individual research projects or outputs
Research centre: Research conducted by a group of researchers linked through common administrative processes and related research activity. Includes analysis of the broader long-term contribution of the centre as a whole, usually combined with analysis of individual research projects or programmes of research conducted by the centre [51, 115]
Research portfolio: Research funded under a single funding stream where the assessment includes an analysis of overall awareness and use amongst end-users of any research from the portfolio as a whole (as opposed to awareness and use of specific research outputs). Can be combined with analysis of funded research projects or programmes of research [78, 99]
Policy documents: Content of policy documents or process for developing a specific policy document/s examined. Data is collated on a per document basis. Includes an analysis of all policy documents or a sample of policy documents within a policy area as opposed to examining a single policy document to corroborate a claimed impact. Policy documents represent the end-point (outputs) of policy deliberations or the policy position at a given point in time. Focus is on discrete policy outputs rather than the extended policy process they may be part of [74]
Committee/expert groups: Process of decision-making of a specific committee or expert group, over a period of time, is analysed [24, 137]. The committee itself is the unit of analysis rather than the policy documents produced by the committee, although these may be analysed as part of the assessment
Policy process: Analysis of a series of events/decisions, made over a period of time culminating in a policy outcome [62]. May examine the overall policy process or divide the analysis according to stages in the policy process (e.g. pre-policy/awareness raising; policy formulation/development; post-policy enactment/implementation) [74]