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Broader Impacts Guide

As of January 14, 2013, NSF changed its approach for evaluating its two merit criteria — intellectual merit and broader impacts. As part of this, the list of examples illustrating activities likely to demonstrate broader impacts was removed from its guidance. The Agency does not want to unduly influence proposers' broader impacts activities or imply that exemplary activities are proscriptive or complete. The result is this document (pdf) is hard to find. We have included the document to give you some ideas on what "broader impacts" are since the examples listed are indeed considered broader impacts by NSF. The Dear Colleague Letter (pdf) from 2007 is also informative.

To fully take into account NSF’s new evaluation approach, you should also consider NSF’s statement that "desired societal outcomes" are a key review element (“1(b) Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (broader impacts)”). This statement broadens what is considered a broader impact.

“NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to the achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to:

  • full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM);
  • improved STEM education and educator development at any level;
  • increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology;
  • improved wellbeing of individuals in society; development of a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce;
  • increased partnerships between academia, industry, and others;
  • improved national security;
  • increased economic competitiveness of the United States; and
  • enhanced infrastructure for research and education.”

Whatever you propose for broader impacts must also stand up to the following four review elements:

  • To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  • Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  • How well qualified is the individual, team, or institution to conduct the proposed activities?
  • Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home institution or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

To cover these review elements, the description of what you propose for broader impacts must be complete, and the bio-sketches you include must demonstrate the team’s ability to carry out what is proposed. You should also address your broader impacts activities via the “Facilities and Other Resources” section by including descriptions of those “Other Resources” (e.g., Developing Scholars, Multicultural Engineering Program, CORES) you will be using to help support your broader impacts program. The narrative page limitation often precludes a complete description of these programs. The Facilities and Other Resources section is not page-limited and allows you to supplement what is included in your narrative.