A Bit of History ...

In January 2011, the President signed into law the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. (COMPETES = Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science.) This law led to NSF updating their Grant Proposal Guide with the following sentences: "Broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to the project. NSF values the advancement of scientific knowledge and activities that contribute to the achievement of societally relevant outcomes." The GPG then gives several outcomes for possible broader impact, which we summarize in the following categories.

Broader Impact Categories (since 2011)

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

Why is broader impacts important?

  • Societal reasons (e.g., to improve the understanding of science and technology for everyone, to ensure that publicly funded research has tangible benefits to taxpayers beyond increasing knowledge),
  • Personal reasons (e.g., to bring new perspectives on research from broader impact efforts, to support and engage our communities), and
  • Legal reasons (i.e., the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 requires NSF to implement a policy for the Broader Impacts Review Criteria that meets the goals of the Act).