Communicating the greater impacts of your project is an important ingredient in a well-crafted proposal even if it is not required in the Request for Proposals (RFP). Funders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors are interested in their return on investment; articulating your project's potential outcomes is an opportunity to demonstrate how your work, and therefore their potential investment, contributes to the greater good. Broader impacts statements are an opportunity for you to excite reviewers about the benefits of your research.
In the world of grants, the term "broader impacts" is often associated with the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s merit review criterion introduced in 1997 to emphasize the organization's investment in activities that contribute to the achievement of societally relevant outcomes. Examples of these outcomes are demonstrated in its Grant Proposal Guide and encompass the following categories of impact: social, environmental, economic, and health-related. The National Institute for Health (NIH) also lists impact review criteria in its Definitions of Criteria under the "Significance" and "Innovation" sections. NIH applications are evaluated on how proposed projects address important problems or critical barriers in the field, drive the field forward, and when relevant, how the intellectual and/or technological outcomes of the research shift existing paradigms.
Your broader impact statement needs to be compelling, relevant to the funder's interests, and include a clearly written plan for implementation. Presenting an unrealistic timeline or incoherent impact description may have a negative impact on your proposal's score. Furthermore, consider your methodology for evaluating your stated broader impact goals. How will you demonstrate your success? What specific outcomes can be expected from your project? Are the benefits direct or indirect? Foundations will very often communicate their organization's purpose and impact goals in the mission statement. Missions guide the decisions of an organization including which projects to fund. Demonstrating meaningful alignment between your project's outcomes and the funder's impact goals can make your proposal more competitive.
Your project's broader impacts can potentially influence a number of domains. You may focus on bigger issues at the societal level or address local issues by enhancing your community. For instance, the NSF explains that broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself or through activities that are supported by, and are complementary to the project. A few examples of broader impact include:
- integrating educational activities as part of your research project
- partnering with organizations or groups in your field that serve minorities
- building an early-career mentorship program aimed to support underrepresented groups
- creating a plan for dissemination of your research to serve a broader purpose through strategic outreach and partnership building
Need more ideas for integrating impact into your project design? This NSF Representative Activities Guide provides lists a number of broader impact relevant activities that can be translated into projects beyond the NSF.
There are a number of potential broader impact partners right here in Bloomington. These groups conduct a variety of outreach-focused activities such as facilitating connections between IU faculty members and students, promoting diversity, providing training and educational programs to students, educators, and the general public, and encouraging service learning.
Examples of Broader Impacts Allies and Resources on the on the IU Bloomington Campus:
- College of Arts and Sciences Office of Science Outreach
- Center for Excellence in Women and Technology (CeWIT)
- Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning
- Center for Rural Engagement
- Office of the Provost Women in STEM Initiative
- IU Office of Sustainability
- Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs
- IU Minority Serving Institutions Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Initiative
- Pervasive Technology Institute Education, Outreach, and Training (PTI)
- School of Education Collaboration and Outreach (Saturday Science Quest for Kids)
- Bradford Woods
A Few Broader Impacts Partners in the Bloomington Community: