Broader Impacts at KU

What are Broader Impacts?

In addition to reviewing the intellectual merit of each proposal, the National Science Foundation evaluates the merit of its Broader Impacts — the potential societal benefits and outcomes of the proposed research. All proposals submitted to the NSF must include a statement about their intended Broader Impacts.

What qualifies as Broader Impacts?

Broader Impacts goals 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.
  • Enhanced infrastructure for research and education.

How are Broader Impacts reviewed?

In addition to evaluating the science for intellectual merit, reviewers assess the Broader Impacts against the following questions:

  1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes?
  2. To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  3. 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?
  4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or institution to conduct the proposed activities?
  5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home institution or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities? Is the budget allocated for broader impact activities sufficient to successfully implement them?

Create a Broader Impacts plan

Meaningful and effective Broader Impacts partnerships require mutual respect and value for the resources, skills and expertise of collaborators.

Start early: Strong Broader Impacts partnerships/plans take time and effort.

Bring money: Quality Broader Impacts require adequate resources, including professional expertise.

Consider what, why and who: Connect with partners who can advise on goals and how they can be achieved and assessed.

Broader Impacts typically account for a minimum of 10 percent of a project’s total budget, according to the National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI). Ultimately, the scale of the Broader Impacts activities should be appropriate for the scale of the overall project and budgeted realistically.


Connect with KU + community partners

Existing KU Networks

Community Events + Organizations

The following events and organizations seek volunteers to provide education and outreach programs and activities.

KU Broader Impacts success stories

Following are examples of successful Broader Impacts activities developed by KU researchers. Do you know of a great project that should be celebrated on this list? Contact Mindie Paget,

Cartoon Guide to Energy

Cartoon Guide to Energy

For the Broader Impacts component of a climate change and energy grant, University Distinguished Professor Judy Wu (Physics & Astronomy) teamed up with Teresa MacDonald, associate director of public programs for the KU Natural History Museum, to develop “Cartoon Guide to Energy,” a hands-on museum for school groups that explores matter and energy. The program also includes four short videos and two games for web and phone applications. More than 4,000 students have participated in the school program since 2012, and the videos have been viewed more than 150,000 times.

Award: Nanotechnology for Renewable Energy, part of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Phase VI: Climate Change and Energy grant | BI cost: $142,000

Microbes on the Move

Microbes on the Move

“Microbes on the Move” created a mobile pop-up museum with natural history collections and hands-on activities to teach about microbe groups, highlight connections between microbial life and more familiar taxa and explore local microbiomes. More than 900 people have engaged with the ongoing project, which emerged from an NSF EPSCoR grant awarded to Teresa MacDonald, associate director of public programs for the KU Natural History Museum, and co-investigator Ben Sikes, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Award: Microbes on the Move: Exploring Microbiomes through Mobile Museum Experiences, part of the NSF EPSCoR-funded Microbiomes of Plant, Aquatic and Soil Systems across Kansas grant | BI cost: $54,000

A Fisheye View of the Tree of Life

A Fisheye View of the Tree of Life + Investigating a Deep Sea Mystery

Ed Wiley, curator emeritus, collaborated with Teresa MacDonald, associate director of public programs for the KU Natural History Museum, to develop two online resources. “A Fisheye View of the Tree of Life” features stories about the relationships, shared characters and evolution of fishes. The online module includes a curriculum unit developed for high school students. More than 13,000 visitors have engaged with the program. Wiley and MacDonald also created “Investigating a Deep Sea Mystery.” The program features a curriculum unit that explores the anatomy of fishes, the molecular and morphological evidence used to study their relationships and interpreting phylogenetic trees. High school students follow the steps to unravel the mystery of fishes’ classification. The site has lured more than 70,000 visitors since 2014.

Award: NSF-funded Euteleost Tree of Life grant | BI cost: $110,000

KU Broader Impacts Working Group

Chris Brown
Vice Provost for Faculty Development
Professor | Department of Geography & Atmospheric Science | Environmental Studies  

Steven Case
Director & Associate Research Professor | Center for STEM Learning

Tamara Falicov
Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities Research | College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Professor | Department of Film & Media Studies

Andrea Greenhoot
Director | Center for Teaching Excellence
Professor | Department of Psychology

Alison Olcott
Director | Center for Undergraduate Research
Professor | Department of Geology

Belinda Sturm
Associate Vice Chancellor for Research
Professor | Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering

Joy Ward
Associate Dean for Science Research | College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Professor | Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology