Broader Impact Support

Broader Impacts

Students check to see if their egg broke!

Students check to see if their egg broke!

The National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF) requirement) increasingly has emphasized the need to justify not only the “intellectual merit” of proposed research, but also its “broader impacts.” Broader Impacts refers to the potential of the proposed project to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.  Proposal development support is available for faculty both through the Office of Research Administration and Finance.

The following information and resources are designed to  provide faculty additional support in their grant application process and to make science and engineering more accessible and meaningful to the broadest community possible.

A sample of current grants and abstracts can be found here.

  1. What are Broader Impacts? 

All NSF grant proposals are evaluated using two merit review criteria: 1) The intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and 2) The broader impacts resulting from the proposed activity.

While “intellectual merit” is about the potential to advance knowledge and encompasses the scientific research proposal, “broader impacts” deals with the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes (as defined in NSF’s Grant Proposal Guide Section III.A.2).


ARIS Broader Impacts Toolkit

 ARISThe resources and tools on this site are designed to help Researchers and BI Professionals develop projects and partnerships that will satisfy the Broader Impact requirement of National Science Foundation (NSF) proposals, and help you fulfill your interest in communicating your science.

This site will provide you direct access to the following:

  • Guiding Principles –  What does NSF require? Get a high-level overview of societally relevant outcomes and review criteria specified by NSF
  • Planning Checklist –  What elements are needed in a BI project? Use this list to review the key elements of an effective BI project proposal
  • BI Wizard – How to I develop my BI project proposal? Our wizard will walk you through all of the key steps to building partnerships and and effective project.
  • BI Project Rubric – How to I assess my project’s potential? Use this rubric to help you evaluate a Broader Impact project plan

A number of other funding agencies also promote activities related to “broader impacts,” such as programs that promote research translation, societal impact, public understanding of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), education and training of the scientific workforce, and broadening participation in STEM. According to NSF’s Grant Proposal Guide (Section II.C.2.d), broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, activities directly related to specific research projects, or activities supported by, but complementary to the project. The Guide goes on to explain that the broader impacts criterion promotes societally relevant outcomes beyond scientific knowledge, including, but not limited to: the 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; and
enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

For additional information on NSF guidelines and expectations, consult NSF’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) file on merit review: F

Broadening Participation at NSF
“Guided by the Strategic Plan, NSF established a performance area focused on broadening participation: to expand efforts to increase participation from underrepresented groups and diverse institutions throughout the United States in all NSF activities and programs.” – NSF Broadening Participation.


NSF Includes: highlights the progress of NSF’s collective efforts to achieve more diversity in STEM.


CEOSE: Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering.

Additional Resources

  1. Research at Northeastern
  2. NSF Resource Center
  3. COSEE Broader Impact Wizard
  4. NU’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research (CATLR)
  5. CAISE – Informal STEM Education: Resources for Outreach, Engagement and Broader Impacts: Report
  6. Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects (Friedman et al., 2008): report outlines categories of the impact that ISE activities have been demonstrated to have on their intended audiences Framework Document
  7. The Principal Investigator’s Guide to Managing Evaluation in Informal STEM Education Projects (CAISE, 2012) designed by CAISE and the Visitors Studies Association for project leaders, designers, and implementers to use when working with evaluators. Guide
  8. NSF Handbook for Project Evaluation
  9. Enhancing Program Performance with Logic Models: Logic Model Templates and Resources
  10. Mentoring the Next Generation: Using undergraduate research to broaden engagement and impact in STEM: holistic primer on how to mentor undergrads in research in ways that are equitable and inclusive.
  11. Examples of broader impacts activities: In 2013, NSF removed a list of examples that had been available in previous versions of its Grant Proposal Guide. To explain this change, the NSF stated: “References to the document containing examples illustrating activities likely to demonstrate broader impacts have been deleted. This was done to eliminate confusion over the document, which was often viewed as a prescriptive list of additional requirements instead of illustrative examples.” Keeping this statement in mind, you can still access this list in this NSF document, “Merit Review Broader Impacts Criterion: Representative Activities.” This document provides examples that fit within five components of the broader impacts criterion:
    1. Advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning;
    2. Broaden participation of underrepresented groups;
    3. Enhance infrastructure for research and education;
    4. Broad dissemination to enhance scientific and technological understanding; and
    5. Benefits to society.

What specific assistance is available through The Center for STEM?

Claire Duggan and supporting staff in the Center for STEM can assist with the development of your Broader Impact requirements in the following ways:

  • Brainstorm “broader impact” ideas and activities related to the proposed research
  • Assist in planning and cost/time estimation
  • Help draft the “broader impact” portion of the grant application & literature review (reports and documentation)
  • Support preparation of a project summary and budget
  • Facilitate connections with potential partner organizations to ensure truly broad impact while preserving faculty time
  • For the implementation phase, assist with communication-related to program oversight and grant reporting


  • Faculty will gain useful support for grant applications and program implementation
  • Community organizations and schools will gain stronger connections to NU Engineering faculty and staff
  • The Center for STEM staff will strengthen relationships with key constituents
  • Science and engineering research and outreach will become more accessible and meaningful to a wider range of people

Programs & Partnerships

While any community organization that matches faculty interests may be considered, the Center for STEM staff will work most closely with two types:

Current Grants

Please go to our Affiliated Grants page to see some of the recently awarded NU grants. You can view the abstract by clicking the grant # in the second column.

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