NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Employing Tactical and Strategic Approaches to Help Faculty Maximize Broader Impacts

Slides: Employing Tactical and Strategic Approaches to Help Faculty Maximize Broader Impacts


  • Danielle Mazzeo, American Museum of Natural History
  • Nathan Meier, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Tisha Mullen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Stephanie Hensel, University of Michigan School of Education

Thanks to our session scribe, Paige Belisle, Harvard University!

This presentation explored how different institutions address Broader Impacts requirements during the proposal development process. The National Science Foundation defines Broader Impacts as activities associated with sponsored research that will benefit our society and world. Other Federal agencies require similar components that will have impact outside of traditional academia. Meeting Broader Impacts requirements can be accomplished through the research/project itself; through activities directly related to the research/project; or through activities complementary to the research/project.

Case Study: American Museum of Natural History, New York City

This portion of the presentation focused on how the museum uses intra-institutional connections to maximize Broader Impacts activities. The museum aims to create & support interdisciplinary partnerships; leverage other departmental efforts to support new Broader Impact activities; and develop Broader Impact activities that are replicable and scalable. This is carried out by establishing links between its library and archives, cyberinfrastructure, graduate students, research projects, youth programs, and exhibitions, all of which also serve the museum’s central mission.

Case Study: University of Michigan School of Education

This section of the presentation discussed a university center which addresses Broader Impacts. The University of Michigan School of Education’s Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research (CEDER) “advances equity and excellence in education by providing access to high quality design, evaluation, and research services through collaborations with university, school, and community partners.” CEDER helps faculty during the proposal development, project implementation, and research dissemination stages by offering design, evaluation, and research development services. Through consultations, CEDER helps faculty consider how to approach Broader Impacts activities in K-12 classrooms.

Case Study: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

This portion of the presentation explored how the University of Nebraska-Lincoln uses a matrix approach for Broader Impacts support by providing something for nearly everyone in the community: Pre-K to seniors, formal and informal activities, and local to global impact. Their group emphasizes that there are no cookie-cutter approaches that guarantee Broader Impacts success. The presentation discussed the importance of leveraging existing partnerships and infrastructure. It  argued that a faculty member doesn’t need to reinvent themselves to successfully implement Broader Impacts activities; rather, they should focus on how their existing connections, passions, and projects might be expanded to meet the requirements.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

I did not realize that the American Museum of Natural History in New York functions as a PhD-granting research institution, and it was very interesting to hear their unique perspective on Broader Impacts.

What resources did you discover at this presentation? 

E-resources from the presentation can be found here:

The presenters mentioned that the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI) offers many additional resources:

What were the most interesting questions asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ responses?

Question: What if PIs want to focus only on training graduate students for their Broader Impacts?

Answer: While this is a very important aspect, it is typically not adequate to only focus on training graduate students in the Broader Impacts section. Generally, the proposal will need to have other Broader Impacts activities as well.

Question: How do you encourage faculty to visit a curriculum development office (or other relevant Broader Impacts resource) early in the proposal development process?

Answer: A helpful website can be a good first step in advertising your services. You can also create a “roadshow” presentation to bring to existing meetings, especially for schools and departments that may need extra help.

Question: What are the most common critiques regarding Broader Impacts in unsuccessful proposals?

Answer: A comment the presenters have frequently seen is that the Broader Impacts were interpreted by the reviewers as too broad or ambitious in scope. Proposal writers should focus on the quality of their Broader Impacts activities rather than the quantity of activities they are proposing. Goals should be concrete and attainable, not aspirational. Broader Impacts partnerships should be authentic.