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Broader impacts have been considered as part of the merit review of proposals since the 1960s. The criterion became a separate and distinct part of NSF proposals in 1997.
The purpose of the broader impact review criterion is to show that a proposed project has the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes. Assessment of broader impacts must be described in grant proposals.
Broader impacts may be accomplished
through the research itself
through activities directly related to specific research projects
through activities directly supported by, but complementary to, the project
Broader Impact Outcomes
NSF recommends 9 areas as broader impact targets:
Full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in STEM (specifically African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders)
Education and Infrastructure
Improved STEM education and educator development at any level
Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology
Enhanced infrastructure for research and education
Industry and Competitiveness
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