Research Impact and Health Research Systems


Investigating how research excellence is defined, and examining health research systems

This module will cover the social science of clinical research, the societal impact of research, and research partnerships. It will be arranged around two main themes. First, it will consider the place of research in society and the measurement and achievement of research excellence and research impact (both qualitatively in the case of narratives and quantitatively in metrics). It will also consider the socio-political context in which research excellence is defined and funding allocated. You will be introduced to different ways of assessing the research process and its outputs and consider how metrics might be selected strategically and harnessed proactively to achieve ethical goals.

The module will also critically explore the emergence and activities of multi-stakeholder health research systems (such as academic health sciences networks and biomedical research centres), including an introduction to theoretical models such as the triple helix (Etzkowitz) and ‘mode 2 knowledge production’ (Gibbons). Taking a critical STS (science and technology studies) perspective, the module will introduce you to ‘research on research’ using qualitative techniques.

Course Aims

On completion of this module, we expect our students to be able to:

  • Describe and critique different ways in which research quality and research impact have been defined and measured
  • Give a critical account of the use of quantitative metrics to shape the research process
  • Analyse the research process qualitatively from a ‘social studies of science’ perspective
  • Consider both the positive synergies and the potential challenges and conflicts of interest in a multi-stakeholder health research partnership  

Research methods and techniques taught in this module:

  • Use of metrics to evaluate the impacts of health research, from traditional bibliometric measures of scholarly impact to more recent approaches to tracking broader social impacts of research
  • Case studies of research impact
  • Ethnography of the research process (including the study of material artefacts such as documents, forms and databases)

Example of case studies to be discussed in this module:

  • Leiden Manifesto for societal impact of research
  • Comparison of UK Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRCS, recently renamed Applied Research Collaborations, ARCs) with Australian Academic Health Centres (AHCs)
  • World University Rankings
  • UK Research Excellence Framework

Programme details

The first weeks of this module is spent working on introductory activities using a Virtual Learning Environment, a week is then spent in Oxford for face-to-face teaching and group work (this takes place on the dates to be confirmed), there are then a series of extended Post-Oxford activities (delivered through the VLE) over the following 4-6 weeks which are designed to support you in the preparation and delivery of the practical elements of your assignment. You will be required to submit your written assignment electronically (usually on a Tuesday at 14:00 UK Local Time).


Students enrolled on MSc in Translational Health Sciences: £2000.00 from 2020/21. Short Course in Health Sciences: tbc


Details of funding opportunities, including grants, bursaries, loans, scholarships and benefit information are available on our financial assistance page.


Dr Alex Rushforth

Dr Alex Rushforth is a Post-doctoral Researcher at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford.

Prof Trish Greenhalgh

Trish Greenhalgh is Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences. Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Research in Health Sciences unit and a practising GP.

Dr Nick Fahy

Dr Nick Fahy is a Senior Researcher and consultant in health policy and systems at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford.

Dr Pavel Ovseiko

Dr Pavel Oveseiko is a Senior Research Fellow in Health Policy and Management at the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, Oxford.

Assessment methods

Assessment will be based on performance in a group presentation and submission of a written assignment which should not exceed 4,000 words.


This course is part of the MSc in Translational Health Sciences.  Applications for this course can be made via the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website.  This website includes further information about this course and a guide to applying

This course will also be open to students to take as an accredited short course in health sciences.  Please contact to register your interest in the course. 

Academic Credit

Applicants may take this course for academic credit. The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for this course. Participants attending at least 80% of the taught course and successfully completing assessed assignments are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 20 CATS points which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.

Applicants can choose not to take the course for academic credit and will therefore not be eligible to undertake the academic assignment offered to students taking the course for credit. Applicants cannot receive CATS (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) points or equivalence. Credit cannot be attributed retrospectively. CATS accreditation is required if you wish for the course to count towards a further qualification in the future.

A Certificate of Completion is issued at the end of the course.

Applicants registered to attend ‘not for credit’ who subsequently wish to register for academic credit and complete the assignment are required to submit additional information, which must be received one calendar month in advance of the course start date. Please contact us for more details.

Please contact if you have any questions.



Accommodation is available at the Rewley House Residential Centre, within the Department for Continuing Education, in central Oxford. The comfortable, en-suite, study-bedrooms have been rated as 4-Star Campus accommodation under the Quality In Tourism scheme, and come with tea- and coffee-making facilities, free Wi-Fi access and Freeview TV. Guests can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar, where they may relax and network with others on the programme.

IT requirements

Please ensure that you have access to a computer that meets the specifications detailed on our technical support page.