During the 2017 Science & Technology Indicators (STI) conference in Paris, a number of discussions touched on impact assessment, which has been a topic of growing interest within the research community. That researchers are increasingly aware of impact, impact pathways and impact assessments comes as no great shock, given that the research policy community is increasingly focusing on impact as the basis for funding decisions. The discussions at STI raised some substantive concerns with the current trajectory of discussions about research impact. In this post, I’ll lay out some relevant history (as I understand it) that contextualizes current discussions about impact. In the next installment, I’ll summarize those points from STI 2017 that stood out to me as the most insightful (and provocative), drawing on the history laid out here in order to explore what I think these comments reflect about the underlying research system.