One of the most extensively discussed requirements introduced in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework was impact. In this review piece, we focus on the linear and temporal consequences of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact system. We link such consequences to our own research agendas to provide a sense of empirical richness to the broad concerns that arise from the impact agenda and to highlight the effects of the Research Excellence Framework’s linear focus and, crucially, the types of alternative narratives
it potentially silences. This ‘silencing’ does not render alternative narratives impossible, but rather makes them difficult to articulate as ‘safe’ options within the existing framework. We highlight how a focus on direct impact could miss the collective nature of impact endeavours, as well as the broader social and cultural benefits of research, and potentially shape and limit the possible research questions posed within this national system. We conclude by opening up some broader questions for the future of impact raised through the consideration of linearity, including the question of ‘measurement’.