Spotlight On... Dr Alison McAnena

Dr Alison McAnea

Dr Alison McAnea

The week we talk to Dr Alison McAnena, Head of Impact (Research and Institutional) from UCL Research, Innovation & Global Engagement (RIGE). We discover how her team makes compelling case studies for research and also how she’s managed to play ball for 30 years.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am Head of Impact within UCL RIGE. My team and I support the development, evidencing and tracking of research impact from engagement activities across the institution, and provide training through UCL Organisational Development on the basics of impact knowledge. How our research is used in the world outside of academia, and how we work with our collaborators (whether in industry, in policy or in public) is vital in addressing society’s most pressing challenges.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been supporting impact development at UCL since 2016. Prior to UCL, I was a post-doctoral researcher in non-traditional stable isotopes (Rutgers University, New Jersey), and paleoclimatology (University of Koln, Germany) after gaining my PhD from Newcastle University in Inorganic Geochemistry.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of coordinating our REF 2021 Impact Case Studies and of the 194 submissions we worked with academics, departments, and faculties to develop. The full submission encompassed almost 1000 pages of documentation, based on approximately 1,165 research outputs and corroborated with over 2000 pieces of impact evidence. More so, I am proud of 400+ academics involved in these cases and their research. We started with a very long list of 700 projects in 2016! The submission highlights UCL’s strengths in local, regional and global partnerships, our engagement excellence and support, and is a celebration of our innovative view to transforming the world around us. You can read summaries of these cases on the

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

Whilst I am keen to keep one eye on future assessments, it is important to focus on broadening support and maximising opportunities for all impact engagement types. Core to a flourishing impact culture is to work with our early career researchers and think above and beyond the REF cycle. We will continue to support our incredible engagement teams across UCL, in areas such as Public Engagement, Innovation & Enterprise, Grand Challenges, Public Policy and Research Translation, and strive to evidence the impacts of strategic projects and programmes, such as the UCL Grand Challenges, to highlight the institutional impact we have beyond Gower Street.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

(Current) album: Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender

Movie: Beaches

Book: Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

What do you call a man from Glasgow who has lost his dog? Douglas....

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Bob Berner (my scientific ’great-grandfather’), Hilary Clinton and Stevie Nicks

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would say not to worry about not being an expert in one academic discipline or the smartest person in the room - being a hard worker and a jack of all trades has allowed me to work across all areas and disciplines in my career at UCL.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I’ve played the same position in Netball for 30 years - and I’ve managed to play it in almost every country I’ve ever worked in around the world.

What is your favourite place?

Bamburgh Beach in Northumberland.

  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000

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