IWH model influences other research orgs’ approach to measuring impact

Work and health research centres in Australia, Denmark and the U.S. are among those that have drawn on or made use of IWH's Research Impact Model.

Published: August 24, 2022

Organizations doing research on work and health should care whether their work has an impact on efforts to prevent work injury and illness, improve recovery and return to work following injury and illness, and ensure the sustainable employment of people with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Understanding this, the Institute for Work & Health (IWH) developed a Research Impact Model (IWH-RIM) in 2010 to guide its thinking about, and documentation of, impact.

The model has resonated with other organizations doing research on work-related health and safety. Several have used the model to help them develop their own methods for assessing the impact of their work and, in some cases, to help guide their approach to knowledge transfer and exchange (KTE). Below are a few snapshots of such uses.

Model for Australia’s ISCRR

In 2018, Australia’s Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) and WorkSafe developed a research impact framework based on the IWH-RIM. Like the IWH-RIM, the ISCRR framework focuses on impact at three levels: research dissemination and diffusion, informing decision making, and contributing to societal change. Early in our work to develop a research impact framework, we identified the IWH Research Impact Model as a helpful starting point, says Samantha Barker, ISCRR’s director. We spoke with key staff at IWH about the model, and the framework we developed is quite close to the IWH approach. We are glad to have had the assistance of IWH in this important work.

During 2019 and 2020, the framework was piloted on 17 projects. According to an article describing the pilot, projects with strong stakeholder engagement from the outset had stronger indicators of impact. This is consistent with IWH’s experience and with the research evidence on factors affecting uptake of research findings.

Influence on Denmark’s NFA

Denmark’s National Research Center for the Working Environment (Nationale Forkningscenter for Arbejdsmiljo or NFA) is a research institute affiliated with the Danish Ministry of Employment. It developed a logic model to inform its understanding of the mechanisms through which impact occurs. This model was influenced by the IWH-RIM. For example, like the IWH-RIM, the NFA’s logic model differentiates among immediate, intermediate and end outcomes. The NFA’s work also echoes IWH’s use of impact case studies, which is among the ways that the NFA documents impact.

The IWH model was an inspiration for our own efforts to develop a framework to understand and assess impact, says NFA Chief Consultant Dr. Ole Henning Sørensen. It has also been very helpful to the NFA in the design of our mechanisms for engaging with our stakeholders, adds Senior Researcher Dr. Johnny Dyreborg.

Adaptation by NIOSH research centre

The Center for Work, Health & Well-being is one of ten Centers of Excellence funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the United States to conduct research on the concepts of Total Worker Health®. The Center engages with stakeholders who have the capacity to influence or implement policies and practices affecting worker health, safety and well-being. To guide its interactions with these stakeholders, the Center developed an outreach logic model, which was adapted from the IWH-RIM.

The IWH Research Impact Model provided a valuable conceptual framework as we developed the Center’s Outreach Core Logic Model, says Dr. Jack Dennerlein, associate director of the Center. It helped us think about the different ways in which our work can have an impact on key users of our research, how we can measure impact, and how we engage with our partners. Unlike traditional linear models, the IWH-RIM builds in feedback from partners, reflecting a commitment to knowledge transfer and exchange throughout the research process.

This column is based on an IWH impact case study, published in August 2022, available at: www.iwh.on.ca/impact-case-studies.