By now, any academic scientist working in National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded fields is well aware of the agency's "broader impacts" (BI) review criterion. For years, applicants for NSF grants have been required to supplement their discussion of a project's "intellectual merit" (IM) with a separate discussion of BI in the project summary.
Last week, NSF's Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET), part of its engineering directorate, issued a notice reminding applicants that starting in 2014 proposals must also include separate BI and IM sections in the project description narrative and in the section describing the results of prior NSF support.
"If any of these requirements (or any other requirement from NSF 13-1 document) are not met, the proposal will not pass the NSF compliance check and will be returned without review," writes the CBET staff. "We would like to avoid such unfortunate instances for our Division."
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. Such outcomes include, but are not limited to: full participation of women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (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; and enhanced infrastructure for research and education.