Broader Impacts: A Critical Section

A Broader Impact (BI) activity is a planned experience, engagement, action, or function conducted over a finite period of time for a specific purpose and with a target audience. These are activities that go beyond traditional faculty responsibilities.

If the target audiences are undergraduate or graduate students, activities should be in addition totraditional undergraduate coursework or graduate student involvement. If a proposer mentions that they will teach an undergraduate class/course or mentor graduate students, this, in itself, is not a BI activity.

A well-written BI section should include activities that:

  • are clearly described
  • have a well-justified rationale
  • demonstrate creativity or originality, or have a basis in established approaches.

You should have a well-organized strategy for accomplishing clearly stated goals; establish qualifications of those responsible for activities; and demonstrate sufficient resources for support. You should also have a plan for documenting the results.

New from AAAS: On-Demand Course on Broader Impacts

AAAS Members: Broader Impacts for NSF Proposals gives researchers the insights that they need to better help them articulate and explain a project’s potential benefit to society when writing grant proposals by examining each of the five broader impacts merit review questions in the NSF proposal guide. This on-demand course includes an assessment to help NSF applicants develop broader impacts sections for their proposals and concludes with a review of best practices for building institutional capacity to support broader impacts development. Special $39 AAAS member rate. Register today!

Types of Broader Impacts

  • Full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  • Improved STEM education and educator development at any level
  • Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology
  • Improved well-being 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
  • Enhanced infrastructure for research and education

This list is not exhaustive, and it is not necessary to address more than one goal in a proposal, as long as the broader impact goal is likely to have a desired societal outcome and is well planned. However, the following five elements should be considered in the review process for broader impact activities. Each element has recommended Guiding Principles and Guiding Questions for proposers and reviewers.