About Broader Impacts
The NSF Definition of Broader Impacts is one of two merit review criteria, along with Intellectual Merit, that the National Science Foundation (NSF) expects proposers to fully address in their proposals. The definitions of the two criteria, as noted in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (Ch. III Section A), are listed below:
Intellectual Merit: The potential to advance knowledge, and
Broader Impacts: The potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes
Requirements & Guidance for Broader Impacts
In the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (Ch. II Section C), the agency offers broad guidelines on how researchers can meet the BI requirement and potential social outcomes they can aim for. Additionally, A Dear Colleague Letter was released in March 2021 by the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) in which a new broader impacts framework was developed that SBE researchers can use to develop and communicate their projects' broader impacts more effectively.
Below are examples of concrete guidance on how BI can be accomplished:
Through the research itself (i.e., research that has potential to lead to breakthroughs in certain industries or contribute to solutions to societal problems)
Through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects (e.g., using the research project as a training ground for students or early-career scientists)
Through complementary activities that are supported by the project (e.g., running an educational workshop for high school students on your research topic)
NSF 101: Five Tips for your Broader Impacts Statement
- Do your homework
The NSF has documents—such as the Proposal and Award Policies & Procedures Guide—that directly describe how your research informs your broader impacts section, including providing nine examples of potential outcomes that might align with your research. Read over these valuable NSF resources to get a sense of what they're looking for from your statement.
- Seek additional resources
Outside agencies and universities, including UNT, have guides on how to write a Broader Impacts section. One such valuable resource is the ARIS Center, which is described further down on this page. Also be sure to talk with colleagues to gain better insight on how your research will impact society.
- Align your statement with your interests, expertise and community needs
Be realistic about the scope of your broader impacts - your research may be more relevant to local educational activities rather than large societal outcomes, and vice versa. Make sure that your research area aligns with the program you are submitting to.
- Know the difference between "broader impacts" and "broadening participation"
Broadening participation, defined as including "scientists from underrepresented groups and institutions," falls under Broader Impacts but is not necessarily a required component of Broader Impacts. Visit NSF's Broadening Participation page to get a sense of how it might or might be a part of your impacts statement.
- Know your audience
Reviewers will evaluate your statement based on five criteria: what are potential societal impacts; are the research concepts original and transformative; is the research plan well-research and well-organized; are the PIs and institutions well qualified; and do the PIs and institutions have the appropriate resources? If your statement addresses these questions clearly and accurately, your readers will be much more receptive to your grant application and research plan.
Advancing Research Impact in Society
The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $5.2 million grant to fund the Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS). The ARIS Center is housed at the University of Missouri and will work with scientists and engagement practitioners to build capacity, advance scholarship, grow partnerships and provide resources to help them engage with and demonstrate the impact of research in their communities and society.
Listed below are some concrete examples of target outcomes for Broader Impacts Activities
Full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in 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