NSF Guidelines

In an NSF proposal, a Broader Impacts plan must be addressed in both the project summary and the project description. While devising your application and your Broader Impacts plan, keep in mind the guidelines and questions that are considered when your application is reviewed.

For a summary of the latest significant changes to the NSF PAPPG document, click here.

General Evaluation Criteria

  • All NSF projects should be of the highest quality and have the potential to advance, if not transform, the frontiers of knowledge.
  • NSF projects, in the aggregate, should contribute more broadly to achieving societal goals. These broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself, through activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project. The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified.
  • Meaningful assessment and evaluation of NSF funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics, keeping in mind the likely correlation between the effect of broader impacts and the resources provided to implement projects. If the size of the activity is limited, evaluation of that activity in isolation is not likely to be meaningful. Thus, assessing the effectiveness of these activities may best be done at a higher, more aggregated, level than the individual project.

Broader Impacts Criteria

  • A well-written broader impacts section should include activities that are clearly described; have a well-justified rationale; and demonstrate creativity or originality, or have a basis in established approaches.
  • The proposer should have a well-organized strategy for accomplishment of clearly stated goals; establish the qualifications of those responsible for the activities; and demonstrate sufficient resources for support.
  • A plan should be in place to document/assess results.

Broader Impacts Guiding Questions

  • What is the potential for the proposed activity to: a) Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit); or b) Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes? (Broader Impacts)?
  • To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  • Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organized, and based on a sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
  • How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?
  • Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?

The National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI) has developed a document with guiding principles to help researchers answer these questions.