Papers in this special issue were developed at an international workshop on ‘State of the Art in Assessing Research Impact’, hosted by the Health Economics Research Group at Brunei University. The workshop debated what constitutes state-of-the-art methods for assessing the ‘impact’ (or broader societal returns) of research. Metrics-only approaches employing economic data and science, technology and innovation indicators were found to be behind the times: best practice combines narratives with relevant qualitative and quantitative indicators to gauge broader social, environmental, cultural and economic public value. Limited consultation between policy-makers and the research evaluation community has led to a lack of policy-learning from international developments. Little engagement between research evaluation specialists and the academic community has cast ‘impact’ as the height of philistinism: yet ‘impact’ is a strong weapon for making an evidence-based case to governments and research funders for enhanced financial support, and ‘the state of the art’ is suited to the characteristics of all research fields (including the humanities, creative arts and social sciences) in their own terms. Copyright , Beech Tree Publishing.