As described in the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG, NSF 23-1), all NSF proposals are evaluated through use of two merit review criteria:
- Intellectual Merit – the potential to advance knowledge
- Broader Impacts – the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.
Both criteria are necessary and given full consideration during the review and decision-making process.
Specifically in regard to Broader Impacts, the PAPPG points out 5 elements that reviewers should evaluate and consider as part of their written reviews. What is the potential for the proposed activity to 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?
Reviewers will be identifying both the strengths and the weaknesses in the proposed broader impact activities.
A resource about broader impacts that grant writers might find useful is the Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society (ARIS). Specifically, one can look at the ARIS Broader Impacts Toolkit and presentations from their summits and office hours available on the ARIS YouTube Channel.