Research impact refers to the effect of research beyond academia, reflecting a desire for knowledge to benefit other sectors of society, both public and private. Impact is, however, hard to measure, with citation measurement tools such as Google Scholar relying on a quantitative rather than qualitative approach. These tools also do not take into account the significant time lags between publication and indications of impact that are common in fields such as law. As for other tools, legal academics in common law jurisdictions often measure research impact by looking at references in judgments, parliamentary proceedings and law reform reports, as well as citations in peer-reviewed publications. The use of case studies is also a recognized method for demonstrating research impact and accountability for grants from public funds.
Parliaments, Treaties and Foreign Policy
In today’s globalized world, international treaties are a significant source of law and policy. However, in common law countries, these legal obligations are made by the executive branch of government, traditionally without the involvement of Parliament prior to conclusion. Taking a comparative approach, Professor Harrington embarked on a two-year research project examining the law and practice of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and South Africa in the field of treaty-making, with a view to recommending reforms to encourage greater legislative involvement, enhance public awareness, and improve democratic accountability. The work also benefitted from Harrington's prior experience working in the UK Parliament, as well as a research visit with the Australian Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
The results of the project were published in the International & Comparative Law Quarterly and have been widely cited by legal academics, political scientists and policymakers. The work has also been cited in several Library of Parliament briefings in both Canada and the United Kingdom – the latter during the lead-up to the adoption of Part 2 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (the "CRAG Act"), and then again, more recently, with Brexit renewing interest in the role for parliamentarians in reviewing international arrangements. In April 2019, this research and her submission calling for the creation of a treaty scrutiny committee were cited by the Constitution Committee of the UK House of Lords in its report on Parliamentary Treaty Scrutiny (para 56). In March 2020, the UK House of Lords decided to create a committee to scrutinize international agreements negotiated and signed by the UK in 2020.
Harrington's work on treaty scrutiny and the role for the elected legislature has also led to recommendations for an enhanced role for provincial legislatures in the making of treaties relevant to areas of provincial responsibility, evaluating reforms either attempted or established in Scotland, the Australian state of Victoria, and Quebec to address a 'federal democratic deficit'. Her work on this aspect was published in the McGill Law Journal in 2005 and represents an important contribution to studies in federalism and foreign affairs, as well as treaty law. This article was also cited in the Supreme Court of Canada judgment in Nevsun Resources Ltd v Araya, 2020 SCC 5.
Her research has also examined the procedures of key international organs, most notably the Security Council, with her 2017 article in the International & Comparative Law Quarterly on reforms to enhance transparency, participation and accountability receiving the inaugural Canadian Council on International Law Scholarly Paper Award.
Her work on interim measures of protection in urgent human rights situations where a complaint is pending for consideration before an international body has attracted interest, especially from lawyers representing asylum claimants at risk of torture or other forms of serious ill treatment if returned. The work has been cited by academics and lawyers, nationally and internationally, and is referenced in leading works of both constitutional law and international law. Identified as one of the first extensive discussions of interim measures within the context of complaints lodged with the UN Human Rights Committee, the work also attracted citation from the International Law Association’s Committee on International Human Rights Law and Practice. A new contribution on this topic will be published as part of a book on the legitimacy and usefulness of interim measures in human rights cases in 2020.
The Practice of International Human Rights Protection
Harrington’s expertise in the international legal protection of human rights has also garnered invitations to appear as an expert witness before Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. A Committee report issued in 2007 expressly endorsed several recommendations made during her testimony in 2005.
Her work has also engaged with the concept of an ‘international dialogue’ taking place between international and national courts on the application of fundamental human rights guarantees, including the right to fair treatment and a fair trial. Her research examining a series of legal challenges to the continued use of the death penalty in the Caribbean served as a timely counterpoint to the debate among academics in the United States about the appropriateness of citing foreign and international jurisprudence, with her article in the American Journal of International Law making the case for the export of an international point-of-view to the Caribbean. Her work also had practical effect, being used by lawyers representing death row prisoners in Uganda to transfer the lessons of the Caribbean challenges to Commonwealth Africa.
She has also engaged in research projects that aim to combine insights drawn from the disciplines of extradition law (and transnational criminal law more generally) with international human rights law and Canadian constitutional law, with the goal of ensuring a balance between protecting rights and securing cross-border cooperation in international crime suppression efforts. She has been retained by members of the private Bar to assist with several cutting-edge legal challenges, working on matters before both national courts and international bodies.
International Law: Doctrine, Practice, and Theory, 2e
Several months after publication, this co-authored book was cited by Canada’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, in the state immunity case of Kazemi Estate v Islamic Republic of Iran, 2014 SCC 62,  3 SCR 176. It has since been cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the corporate responsibility case of Nevsun Resources Ltd v Araya, 2020 SCC 5. The book is also used as teaching text in Canada.
Research impact is the contribution that research makes to the economy, society, environment or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research."