The author regards development of Australia's ill-fated Research Quality Framework (RQF) as a “live experiment” in determining the most appropriate approach to evaluating the extra-academic returns, or “impact,” of a nation's publicly funded research. The RQF was at the forefront of an international movement toward richer qualitative, contextual approaches that aimed to gauge the wider economic, social, environmental, and cultural benefits of research. Its construction and implementation sent mixed messages and created confusion about what impact is, and how it is best measured, to the extent that this bold live experiment did not come to fruition. © Wiley Periodicals, Inc.