Project Impact Statement

NIFA relies on your reports and results to brief leaders and legislators on the impact of public funding in university research. Therefore, it is imperative that your report/results be written in plain, non-technical language. Your reports should be written in lay terms, so that non-scientific readers can relate. Consider reporting things like economic changes, community dynamics, environmental conditions, or agricultural norms. Use numbers that will be meaningful to non-scientific audiences such as community leaders, politicians, taxpayers, and farmers.

You might find it helpful to refer back to the non-technical summary you provided at the outset of your project. The impact statement should reflect the results of your work and how it will impact and benefit broad audiences.

You can contact and request assistance editing/polishing any portion of your report.

The Primary Sections of an Impact Statement:

  • Situation: What issue(s) are you addressing with your research? Who is impacted? Why does it matter?
  • Response: What has been done? How have you addressed the issue?
  • Results/impact: How has or will your response/findings impact the stakeholders involved in this issue? What are the broader outcomes for the real world? Consider the big picture and then explain that simply and directly.

Impact statements are not:

  • A description of a process
  • The number of papers published
  • The number of people attending a meeting


Impact example #1


Mastitis, a disease caused most often by an infection in a cow's mammary gland, is the dairy industry's costliest problem -- representing $2 billion a year nationwide.

Half of dairy cow mastitis cases occur during the first and last week of the dry period when the animal is not being milked. During those times, current mastitis treatment, including antibiotics, can be ineffective and expensive, and may create the potential for residues in milk if not used and monitored properly.

What's been done

An Iowa State University animal scientist and an expert in polymers and plastics developed a breathable teat sealant that prevents mastitis by keeping out bacteria while maintaining tissue health and integrity. ISU research demonstrated that the dip provides a protective mammary gland coating that reduced infections at calving by about 40%.


Dry period mastitis costs dairy producers up to $500 per case. Preventing 40% of expected mastitis cases by using the teat sealant would save the average Iowa dairy producer with 65 cows about $6,500 a year.


Impact Example #2


Foodborne illnesses kill an estimated 9,000 Americans each year and make more than 4 million sick. About half of these cases are caused by animal products.

What's been done?

Iowa State University houses one of the few commercial-sized food irradiators at a U.S. educational institution, providing researchers and meat processors with a real-world facility to test this technology. Research has found that irradiating meat and poultry reduces microbial contamination to a level that virtually eliminates the risk of foodborne illness and more than doubles the product's shelf life on average. Irradiated meat tastes the same and the nutritional content is identical to non-irradiated meat, but its color may darken.


The Food and Drug Administration used ISU research findings in its decision to approve the irradiation of ground beef, a widely used product that is especially susceptible to foodborne contamination. Irradiation of half of the meat and poultry sold in the United States could reduce the number of foodborne caused deaths by 2,250 and illnesses by a million.

USDA-NIFA Guidance for Impact Statements:

The impact statement in your reports will be a primary tool for briefing leadership and legislators about what has been accomplished with the public funding invested in grant programs. Refer back to the non-technical summary you provided at the outset of your project. This impact statement should reflect the results and conclusion of your work that will provide benefits to broad audiences. It is imperative that this portion of your report be written in plain, non-technical language. Please do feel free to use numbers that will be meaningful to non-scientific audiences such as community leaders, politicians, taxpayers, and farmers. You will need to translate results of your work into lay terms – things that everyday people can relate to. Consider reporting things like changes in economics, community dynamics, environmental conditions, or agricultural norms.

How to accomplish this:

Revisit the logic model for your project if you have one. Impact statements should arise from the outcomes described in a logic model. A good impact statement in a final report has three elements:

1.       State the issue in terms that will connect with a broad audience. Think back to what need you were seeking to address when you proposed the project.

2.       Describe, in general terms, who did what, and the results. Specific quantitative values or trends help validate the impact.

3.       Translate those results into broader outcomes in the real world. Engage your peripheral vision in order to remember how the work you are doing is important to the bigger picture and then explain that simply and directly.

Impacts and key outcomes/accomplishments are defined as changes in knowledge, action, or condition.

A change in knowledge occurs when the participant (scientist, trainee, or citizen) learns or becomes aware.

Examples of a change in new fundamental or applied knowledge significant enough to be included in a publication; methods and techniques; policy knowledge; improved skills; or increased knowledge of decision-making, life skills, and positive life choices among youth and adults.

A change in action occurs when there is a change in behavior or the participants act upon what they have learned (adoption of techniques and methods or a change in practice).

Examples of a change in actions include: application and actual use of fundamental or applied knowledge; adoption of new or improved skills; direct application of information from publications; adoption and use of new methods or improved technologies; use of skills by youth and adults in making informed choices; adoption of practical policy and use of decision-making knowledge.

A change in condition occurs when a societal condition is changed due to a participant's action.

Examples of a change in conditions include: development of human resources; physical, institutional, and information resources that improve infrastructure technology transfer; management and behavioral changes and adjustments; quantified changes in descriptive statistics (trade balance, export sales, etc.); better and less expensive animal health; changes in conditions (e.g., wages, health care benefits, etc.) of the agricultural workforce; higher productivity in food provision; quantified changes in quality-of-life for youth and adults in rural communities; safer food supply; reduced obesity rates and improved nutrition and health; or higher water quality (e.g., increased water clarity) and a cleaner environment (e.g., measurably reduced pollution).