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, and in Law, there are often significant time lags between publication and indications of impact. Legal academics in common law jurisdictions often measure research impact by looking at citations in peer-reviewed publications as well as references in judgments, parliamentary proceedings, and law reform reports. 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 results of this project were published in the International and Comparative Law Quarterly, and have been widely cited by legal academics, political scientists, and policy-makers. The work has also garnered reference 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, and then again, more recently, with Brexit renewing interest in the role for parliamentarians in reviewing international arrangements. In April 2019, this research was cited by the Constitution Committee of the UK House of Lords in its report on Parliamentary Treaty Scrutiny. The work has also been referenced in the Australian Parliament and in the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie.
Her research also included recommendations for an enhanced role for provincial legislatures in the making of treaties relevant to areas of provincial responsibility, evaluating reforms attempted in Scotland, the Australian state of Victoria, and Quebec to address what she has labelled a ‘federal democratic deficit’. Her work, published in the McGill Law Journal, represents an important contribution to studies in federalism and foreign affairs, as well as studies in treaty law, and benefitted from her prior experience working in the UK Parliament, as well as a research visit with the Australian Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
Interim Measures of Protection
Joanna Harrington’s work on interim measures of protection in urgent human rights situations has attracted interest from lawyers representing asylum claimants worried about a risk of torture or other forms of serious ill treatment. 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.
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.
She 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, such as those to fair treatment and 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 a U.S. (and 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. The book benefits from the international legal practice experiences, and the collaboration, of its authors. It is also used as teaching text in several Canadian law schools.
Research impact is the demonstrable contribution that research makes to the economy, society, culture, national security, public policy or services, health, the environment, or quality of life, beyond contributions to academia."