What is “Impact Validity”?

This page is dedicated to discussion of the concept “Impact Validity” – the extent to which research has the potential to play an effective role in some form of social and political change or is useful as a tool for advocacy or activism.

Impact validity is not intended as replacement of traditional conceptions of validity (internal or external validity). In addition to considering traditional criteria for determining the methodological rigor of research, it is also critical to consider the many related decisions that researchers make when working toward social change, decisions that are independent of questions of method or validity (internal or external).

Impact validity has to do with the strategic choice of research questions and the strategic dissemination of findings. Values and political concerns occur before data are ever collected. Whereas, questions of scientific rigor or “objectivity” guide the execution of the research (utilizing methodological principles that encourage transparency, replicability and an apolitical stance), decisions about the potential impact of research occur both before and after data is collected and analyzed.