Broader Impact Categories (since 2011)

  • [BP] PARTICIPATION: Broaden participation by increasing the participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in STEM
  • [SE] STEM EDUCATION: Improve STEM education for students and educators at any level
  • [PE] PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: Engage the public by increasing public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology
  • [WB] WELL-BEING: Improve well-being of individuals in society
  • [NS] NATIONAL SECURITY: Improve national security
  • [EC] ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS: Increase economic competitiveness of the United States
  • [SW] STEM WORKSFORCE : Develop a more diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce
  • [IP] INCREASE PARTNERSHIPS: Increase partnerships between academia, industry, and others
  • [EI] ENHANCE INFRASTRUCTURE: Enhance infrastructure for research and education

On this page, we first provide six shining stars. These shining stars are broader impact activities that we view as impressive, especially because they address multiple broader impact categories. We follow the shining stars with other examples of broader impact activities; we categorize these other examples by the audience that the activity impacts.

Shining Stars

These shining stars are broader impact activities that we view as impressive. We list the broader impact categories that each shining star addresses.

  • Contribute to or leverage one of the existing BPC alliances. The Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) community encompasses a wide variety of existing organizations and alliances that need volunteers. These include the CRA-W (Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research)/CDC (Coalition to Diversity Computing) Alliance, the Empowering Leadership Alliance (EL), the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI), the Alliance for the Advancement of African Americans (A4RC), the Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact Alliance (ARTSI), the Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing), the Students & Technology in Academia, Research & Service Alliance (STARS), the Grace Hopper Regional Consortium, and the National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT). There are also a variety of smaller local or regional alliances, including the Caribbean Computing Center for Excellence (CCCE), Into the Loop in Los Angeles, Georgia Computes!, and the Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE). These alliances also provide resources that can be useful to PIs who wish to organize their own events or activities. Other existing institutions such as the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in IT (CMD-IT) need volunteers too.
    Categories of Broader Impact: BP, SE, WB, EC, SW, IP

  • Apply to host a summer researcher through the DREU program. The Distributed Research for Undergraduates (DREU) program matches undergraduate students from underrepresented groups with faculty mentors from other institutions who agree to host the students for the summer and engage them in summer research projects. This provides students with a close-up view of what life as a graduate student would be like, as well as an opportunity to gain research experience before applying to graduate programs. PIs can apply to host a DREU student directly through the program, but can also request funding for a DREU student in their own proposals.
    Categories of Broader Impact: BP, SE, SW

  • Create or participate in a shared data repository. The Southern California Earthquake Center is an example of a shared data repository. The mission of the center is to gather data on earthquakes, integrate data into a physics-based understanding of earthquakes and to communicate to society useful knowledge for understanding earthquake risk. This center was described as exemplary because it is organized around particular research areas with distributed researchers around the country who collaborate to build a shared collection of data available for public use.
    Categories of Broader Impact: PE, WB, NS, SW, IP, EI

  • Train local teachers. The NSF Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program supports the active involvement of K-12 teachers and community college faculty in engineering research in order to bring knowledge of engineering and technological innovation into their classrooms. This program not only reaches out to teachers, but it can also serve as a great source of local-interest stories for media organizations. For example, a RET program at UMass Lowell was written up in the Lowell Sun. Not only does this increase infrastructure for education, it also advances science while teaching, is disseminated to a large audience, and highlights the benefits the university is making to the local community.
    Categories of Broader Impact: BP, SE, PE, EC, SW, IP, EI

  • Share your research with the public. For the cost of a cup of coffee or a glass of beer, people interested in various scientific topics converge to hear talks by local scientists and engineers. These informal talks are a chance for researchers to bring their ideas and work to the local community. Examples include domestic grassroots events announced on the Nova ScienceNow webpage and sciencecafes.org. Many of these events are founded by university groups, such as the Boulder Colorado Cafe Scientifique.
    Categories of Broader Impact: PE, WB, IP

  • Offer consulting hours. University faculty could offer a pizza and consulting period for high school or middle school teachers. During this consulting period, high school or middle school teachers ask the faculty member for advice on a technical issue they have. The underlying idea of pizza and consulting is to offer technical knowledge to high school and middle school teachers that they may not otherwise be exposed to. In this model, the university faculty members become resources for the high school and middle school faculty members. Interaction can be characterized as an as-needed consulting relationship in which the door is open and high school and middle school faculty self-select attendance and topics of discussion.
    Categories of Broader Impact: SE, PE, SW, IP, EI

  • Work on problems that are "applied" in nature. These are problems that typically effect quality of life in areas such as public safety, the environment, health, equity and social justice, or accessibility. For example, the work of the AccessComputing Alliance and other accessibility related projects promotes the universal design of technology, instruction, and environments for disabled students who are extremely underrepresented in the computing field. The Prime III accessible voting system is an electronic voting application that provides independent and confidential voting to the disabled. These efforts produce accessibility to areas of the public who are generally excluded from the design processes of new technologies. A 3rd example is the monitoring of earth dams in the United States to determine when a dam may fail before failure occurs in the SmartGeo program. A 4th example is computational geometry research, which has been used to develop cancer treatment and medical imaging technology to improve diagnosis and treatment techniques in the health industry. Many other examples exist.
    Categories of Broader Impact: depends on problem being solved

Other Examples

We categorize several other broader impact examples by the audience that the activity impacts: K-12 students, K-12 teachers, parents, undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs/researchers, college teachers, college administrators, industry/government collaborators, local community, and national community. This list is far from complete, but exists with the hope that it'll help readers brainstorm broader impact ideas for their projects.

K-12 Students

  • Prepare and share a presentation/activity on your general research area at local high schools.
  • Help organize or participate in a middle/high school student/teacher day in your department with student posters and presentations and activities directed toward increasing awareness of computer science topics.
  • Bring a high school student into your research lab for the summer.
  • Serve as a research mentor for high school senior projects.
  • Provide lab tours to K-12 or community groups to showcase research.
  • Participate in K-12 science and engineering competitions. Competitions such as Lego League are a great tool for getting students interested and involved in science and engineering. These projects are always looking for volunteers to help out.
  • Develop cool computer science lectures that can be presented to high school students. Some faculty members would be interested in visiting a high school to speak to students about career opportunities in computer science, but are unsure of how to best present interesting computer science material to high school students. Interested PIs can help by taking the time to prepare engaging presentations at an appropriate level for others to use and making this presentation material publicly available, as well as by giving lectures in high schools themselves.
  • Volunteer to mentor a K-12 student on a research or engineering project. Programs like Citizen Schools and National Lab Day offer opportunities for PIs to get involved in the community as mentors to students.
  • Attract kids to computing through outreach. Teaming up with organizations that provide outreach programs to kids can bring computer science to a wide range of students. For example, see the Math Handbags activity, which was developed as part of a Science Discovery program. This workshop allowed kids to design decals from mathematical functions which were then used to decorate bags they brought from home.
  • Develop TED talks for kids and by kids. Inspired by the popularity of the TED conference and the emergence of local events, gearing talks to kids could inspire as much science enthusiasm in children as the talks do in adults.

K-12 Teachers

  • Participate in National Lab Day to be matched with a K-12 teacher.
  • Participate in or help develop a program in your department/institution to provide research experiences for high school teachers.
  • Hold group or individual 'pizza' consulting lunches or dinners with local high school teachers to answer questions and provide information.
  • Engage and educate high school teachers. High school teachers may not understand what is involved in a career in computer science. Talking to high school teachers about computer science and how to recruit students into computer science can have a big impact. NCWIT and other organizations have material prepared on how to educate high school teachers about computer science.


  • Engage parents and other student influencers. Educating parents on STEM careers and financial support options available to students may make them more likely to encourage their children to pursue interests in science and engineering. This is especially critical in communities in which students are likely to be the first in their families to attend college.

Undergraduate students

  • Serve as an effective research mentor for undergraduate students.
  • Bring an undergraduate from a primarily teaching school into your lab for the summer.
  • Write a textbook that is informed by one's research.
  • Promote analytical and problem-solving skills in entry-level courses. Students with diverse interests can potentially be recruited by promoting useful analytical and problem-solving skills in entry-level computer sciences courses instead of focusing on programming alone.
  • Develop activities to foster community among members of groups with similar backgrounds or interests. Working on a degree in computer science can be an isolating experience, especially for women or members of other underrepresented minorities who may feel that they do not fit in with their peers. To help deter these feelings of isolation, PIs can organize various types of meetings for students with similar interests within a department or university. These can be informal student meetings, speaker series, technical discussions, or anything in between. While the activities may focus on retention and advancement of particular groups of students, it is imperative that such efforts are inclusive and create a welcoming environment for all participants.
  • Develop courses using different teaching methodologies. Different students respond to different teaching methodologies in different ways. For some, a "studio-based learning" model or master-apprentice pedagogical model may be more effective than standard college lectures. For others, engaging in critical analysis with classmates or having the opportunity to resubmit a project after receiving feedback to improve their grades might work well. PIs can develop non-standard classes to engage these students.

Graduate Students

  • Serve as en effective research mentor for graduate students.
  • Organize a panel for a conference.
  • Support students attending research mentoring conferences and workshops.
  • Establish special mentoring programs at your institution or region for under-represented groups in computing.
  • Organize or assist an established minority-specific conference or workshop. Conferences such as the Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (including the Regional Hoppers), the annual Academic Workshop for Underrepresented Ethnic Minorities and People with Disabilities, and CRA-W Discipline-Specific Workshops are designed to bring together underrepresented minorities in computer science for networking, mentoring, and education about careers in computer science. PIs can volunteer to help organize such conferences, or to simply participate in these conferences as speakers or panelists. In this way, they can serve as role models to students, and provide students with mentoring opportunities and career development advice.
  • Develop supporting events at a major conference. PIs can encourage the participation of underrepresented minorities at major conferences in their own fields by organizing special events such as poster sessions, dinners, or opportunities for students to meet with speakers.


  • Participate in, or organize, a mentoring workshop for researchers possibly targeted at under-represented groups (e.g., CRA-W Discipline-Specific Workshops).
  • Create (or participate in) a shared cyber-infrastructure. As an example, the TeraGrid was the world's largest cyber-infrastructure for open scientific research combining resources from eleven partner sites. In this project high-performance computers, data resources and tools are integrated using high-performance network connections. This infrastructure provides researchers with access to discipline-specific databases, computing capacity, and online and archival data storage.
  • Create a shared testbed that others can use. As an example, Carnegie Mellon University hosts a Testbed for Repeatable, Easy to Control Wireless Networking Experiments. This emulator testbed is available over the Internet for research and educational purposes, and allows researchers around the world to evaluate their wireless networking research efforts.
  • Help researchers become better public presenters: Researchers are not, in general, formally trained in public speaking, audience engagement, and improvisation. Many professional acting and comedy groups offer courses to help researchers gain these valuable skills. For example, professors from Northwestern University work with the Second City improv group in Chicago. This group offers such courses as Improvisation for Creative Pedagogy.
  • Organize a seminar, workshop, or conference. Organizing and running seminars, workshops, and conferences can bring computer science ideas and research to many different types of people, as well as provide insight about the efficacy of methods for dissemination.

College Teachers

  • Share course materials that are informed by one's research, such as class notes, project descriptions, and videos.
  • Make research software and tools available to others.
  • Organize a workshop or tutorial in your research area, at an international, national, or regional level.
  • Provide training for NSF Career proposal writing to fellow colleagues in your research area.
  • Train faculty and students to be more supportive and inclusive. PIs can organize training workshops on how to be inclusive and culturally-sensitive when dealing with students; these workshops can be led by people with relevant expertise, and given to faculty and staff within their departments.
  • Promote the use of culturally relevant examples in teaching. PIs can strive to use examples in their own teaching that demonstrate the value of diversity. For example, there is research that suggests that there are some problems that can only be solved by having diverse viewpoints or contributors. Refer to the Culturally Situated Design tools website for examples of culturally relevant activities centered in mathematics. Culturally-relevant ideas and examples can be included in assignments too.

College Administrators

  • Create a list of resources for faculty at your institution interested in participating in BI activities at the institution.
  • Use resources available at a national level (like NCWIT, Anita Borg Institute, CRA-W, Tapia, etc.) to either tailor their programs and services to local needs or to become involved at a national or other level. (e.g., running a local/regional Grace Hopper Conference).
  • Develop more interdisciplinary programs. Another way to attract students with diverse interests is to highlight exciting interdisciplinary applications of computer science skills. Interdisciplinary programs provide students an opportunity to develop technical skills and put these skills to use on any application that they are passionate about.
  • Develop or assist with bridging courses. Bridging programs and courses are designed to make it easier for students to transition into technical programs. For example, these courses might help college graduates with no computer science background transition into a computer science masters program, or community college students' transition into a four-year undergraduate computer science degree. PIs can help by designing bridging courses or working within their university or community to get these courses approved.
  • Look into methods that have been successful for other scientific disciplines and figure out how to apply them to computer science. Other scientific disciplines, such as biology, have been very successful at recruiting and retaining women and other underrepresented minorities. Computer scientists could learn from studying why this is true and what techniques have been used in these disciplines to attract underrepresented groups.

Industry/Government Collaborators

  • Participate in an industry or government collaboration. As an example, the Industrial Partnership Program at Oak Ridge Laboratory supports collaborations between industry and the government, i.e. with Oak Ridge Laboratory. The availability of these systems enables companies, who may not have the computational power themselves, to solve complex computational problems. This project also requires that projects that are not proprietary make their scientific results available to educate the broader scientific and research community.
  • Create collaborative programs such as personnel exchanges and intern programs.
  • Provide employee training or share resources for those in other organizations.

Local Community

  • Serve as a panelist or speaker at events for the general public.
  • Utilize your organization's public relation's arm to disseminate results of socially impactful research to local news media.
  • Create an interactive museum exhibit. Every year, millions of people visit science museums across the country. Engaging exhibits can have a lasting impact on both young and old alike. For example, a recent addition to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is the Science of Storms exhibit, which explores the science behind dramatic weather. The exhibit includes numerous interactive pieces like a user-controlled tornado vortex and a wind tunnel.

National Community

  • Create videos, posters, or other materials targeted at increasing awareness of your research area among the general public.
  • Serve on government panels or other bodies, where your work is informed by your research.
  • Share research with others. New and creative sources of information are continually making their way into the mainstream media, giving researchers novel outlets for dissemination. A few examples include posting online comics, blogs, and videos that help explain your research to others.
  • Post research highlights online. For example, the Computing Research Association (CRA) organization can publish highlights of computing-related research online. This activity serves to inform the broader community about why your research is important to society.
  • Maintain Wikipedia articles. Commit to maintaining a series of Wikipedia articles about a new field of computing research.
  • Work to influence policy from the state to the federal levels. As an example, research done by the Universal Usability Lab focuses not only on accessibility within human computer interaction (HCI), but also how to affect public policy that governs the regulation of publicly available resources to ensure that they are fairly accessible to all. The methods recommended for this undertaking were to respond and become involved in proposed regulations through research by making contact with local policy makers, and serving on standards boards.
  • Provide online spaces where your research can be tracked and discussed by non-academic groups, encouraging citizens to expand on research ideas and think about ways to improve and affect change themselves. Two examples of this were the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Urban Grand Challenge projects and the Netflix recommendation algorithm challenge, which successfully motivated groups of citizens to tackle complex engineering and computation problems. Another directly related effort is the living voters guide, which is an NSF funded project that was developed to promote civic engagement and debate about policy measures being proposed in Washington D.C. This research project uniquely provided participants with an instant perspective on the benefits to the overall community by promoting directed dialogue about the pros and cons of policy affecting their immediate community.
  • Engage citizens in research. An example of this is the work done by the Center for Embedded Network Sensing (CENS). Within CENS, the Urban/Participatory Sensing research projects involve the use of mobile device sensors to allow university and community members to gather scientific data surrounding environmental concerns, civic engagement, and personal sensing to provide a novel way to collect data within naturalistic environments that are used to create or improve policy in their immediate area.