NSF "Explains" Broader Impacts (BI)

What is BI, anyway?

You'll find a section in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG, NSF 13-1 January 2013) devoted to describing this review criterion. (And I've made a little "cheatsheet" to remind us of the core elements of the new NSF definition.  Although it is less comprehensive than previous explanations, you want to make sure your efforts conform to the most up-to-date formulation.)

The old five-question approach below still form the core of the definition, but for example, in the GPG,  #1 "integration of research and education" and #2 "integrating diversity into NSF programs" are singled out as elements that receive "careful consideration." An expanded set of "representative activities" was outlined by NSF and circulated in this July 2007 memorandum (in this pdf and below in html).  New wording in the America Competes Act is even more explicit (Section 526). The January 2013 cheatsheet, referred to above, lists the elements of BI that NSF "values."

Third-party explanations are also often informative, for example the "BIT: Broader Impacts Toolbox" from Univ. of Nebraska (mentioned on home page), an ACS (Am. Chemical Society) "showcase," The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton University, or this link to a Clemson set of posters on Broader Impacts (loads slowly).  A fifth link pulls up an NSF budget request dated May 2010 seeking a "community review" for CBP-US--Comprehensive Broadening Participation of Undergraduates in STEM. 

**GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE:  Another incrediby helpful, generous, and well-informed third-party, Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE), created the phenomenally helpful FAQs (BI 2.0) and Broader Impacts Wizard, probably as part of their own broader impacts. They have clearly been paying attention to developments around the concept of BI. 

The materials have disclaimers that they are not NSF documents, but in fact they were developed in consultation with NSF, and the principal author, Richard Tankersley is currently on leave from Florida Institute of Technology and is on staff at NSF's Division of Graduate Education (EHR/DGE).  (If you Google him, you'll come up with an interesting collaborative project he did with public school science teachers (with NSF funding) that, like the COSEE site, may be both a source of information and a model of information delivery.)

The sub-title of the FAQs document makes you think it's only about the new revisions to the BI requirement, but in fact, they will give you an excellent idea of the whole program.


Merit Review Broader Impacts Criterion: Representative Activities 

July 2007  

  1. Broader Impacts Criterion: What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity? (5 questions)

    • 1.  How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training and learning?

    • 2.  How well does the proposed activity broaden the participation of

    underrepresented groups (e.g., gender, ethnicity, disability, geographic, etc.)?

    • 3. To what extent will it enhance the infrastructure for research and education, such as facilities, instrumentation, networks and partnerships?

    •4.  Will the results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding?

    • 5. What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society?



    Advance Discovery and Understanding While Promoting Teaching, Training and Learning

    1. Examples of Activities:

    2. 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.



      Broaden Participation of Underrepresented Groups

      Examples of Activities:

      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.

      Establish research and education collaborations with faculty and students at community colleges, colleges for women, undergraduate institutions, and EPSCoR institutions.

      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.



      Enhance Infrastructure for Research and Education

      Examples of Activities:

      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 to Enhance Scientific and Technological Understanding

      Examples of Activities:

      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.


      Benefits to Society

      Examples of Activities:

      Demonstrate the linkage between discovery and societal benefit by providing specific examples and explanations regarding the potential application of research and education results.

      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.

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