Broader Impacts

Over the past several years we have seen an increase in the number of funding agencies that want to understand how the funding that is being or has been provided is making an impact in broader terms. The NSF, in particular, has for the past several years been on the forefront of requesting this information. Though the information below is based on the NSF requirements it can be used for any funder requesting such information.

Effective January, 2013 the NSF has updated its requirements regarding the inclusion of Broader Impacts in the proposal:

  • The Project Description must now contain, as a separate section within the narrative, a discussion of the broader impacts of the proposed activities. 
  • Intellectual Merit and Broader Impact activities must be described in two separate sections in the summary of Results from Prior NSF Support.

The following are some tips when developing or reporting broader impacts for your proposal:

In general consider these questions:

  • How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training and learning?
  • How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)?
  • To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks and partnerships?
  • Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding?
  • What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?

 Here is a list of criteria to consider when developing your broader impacts section for the proposal or addressing them for prior funding including suggested activies (note: a PI does not need to address each and every one nor is the list of activities exhaustive):

Integrating research and education

Activities may include:
  • Integrate research activities into the teaching of science, math and engineering at all educational levels (e.g., K-12, undergraduate science majors, non-science majors, and graduate students).
  • Include students (e.g., K-12, undergraduate science majors, non-science majors, and /or graduate students) as participants in the proposed activities as appropriate.
  • Participate in the recruitment, training, and/or professional development of K-12 science and math teachers.
  • Develop research-based educational materials or contribute to databases useful in teaching (e.g., K-16 digital library).
  • Partner with researchers and educators to develop effective means of incorporating research into learning and education.
  • Encourage student participation at meetings and activities of professional societies.
  • Establish special mentoring programs for high school students, undergraduates, graduate students, and technicians conducting research.
  • Involve graduate and post-doctoral researchers in undergraduate teaching activities.
  • Develop, adopt, adapt or disseminate effective models and pedagogic approaches to science, mathematics and engineering teaching.

Broadening participation of underrepresented groups

Activities may include: 

  • Establish research and education collaborations with students and/or faculty who are members of underrepresented groups.
  • Include students from underrepresented groups as participants in the proposed research and education activities.
  • Establish research and education collaborations with students and faculty from non-Ph.D.-granting institutions and those serving underrepresented groups.
  • Make campus visits and presentations at institutions that serve underrepresented groups.
  • Mentor early-career scientists and engineers from underrepresented groups who are submitting NSF proposals.
  • Participate in developing new approaches (e.g., use of information technology and connectivity) to engage underserved individuals, groups, and communities in science and engineering.
  • Participate in conferences, workshops and field activities where diversity is a priority.

Enhancing infrastructure for research and education

    Activites may include:

  • Identify and establish collaborations between disciplines and institutions, among the U.S. academic institutions, industry and government and with international partners.
  • Stimulate and support the development and dissemination of next-generation instrumentation, multi-user facilities, and other shared research and education platforms.
  • Maintain, operate and modernize shared research and education infrastructure, including facilities and science and technology centers and engineering research centers.
  • Upgrade the computation and computing infrastructure, including advanced computing resources and new types of information tools (e.g., large databases, networks and associated systems, and digital libraries).
  • Develop activities that ensure that multi-user facilities are sites of research and mentoring for large numbers of science and engineering students.

Broad dissemination of scientific ideas and methods (general scientific literacy)

Activities may include:

  • Partner with museums, nature centers, science centers, and similar institutions to develop exhibits in science, math, and engineering.
  • Involve the public or industry, where possible, in research and education activities.
  • Give science and engineering presentations to the broader community (e.g., at museums and libraries, on radio shows, and in other such venues.).
  • Make data available in a timely manner by means of databases, digital libraries, or other venues such as CD-ROMs.
  • Publish in diverse media (e.g., non-technical literature, and websites, CD-ROMs, press kits) to reach broad audiences.
  • Present research and education results in formats useful to policy-makers, members of Congress, industry, and broad audiences.
  • Participate in multi- and interdisciplinary conferences, workshops, and research activities.
  • Integrate research with education activities in order to communicate in a broader context.

Direct benefit to society

Activities may include:

  • Partner with academic scientists, staff at federal agencies and with the private sector on both technological and scientific projects to integrate research into broader programs and activities of national interest.
  • Analyze, interpret, and synthesize research and education results in formats understandable and useful for non-scientists.
  • Provide information for policy formulation by Federal, State or local agencies.

Increased partnerships between academia, industry, and other  

Improved national security

Increased economic competitiveness of the U.S.