Broader Impacts Resource CenterPenn State Eberly College of Science Outreach Office
Tips for Successful Execution of Broader Impacts Activities
Once their proposals are funded, researchers often, and rightfully, focus first on ensuring that the infrastructure to support their research is successfully established. There are a few best practices that you can follow, however, to ensure that your Broader Impacts activities are well-executed when the time comes:
- At the very least, lay some groundwork for your Broader Impacts activities in Year 1: In the busy times after a grant is initially funded, researchers can often set their Broader Impacts activities completely on the back burner, only to be jolted back to thinking about them after they write their Year 1 Annual Report and have nothing to write. Avoid this unpleasant scenario by carving out some time in Year 1 to have a few initial conversations with any Broader Impacts partners and/or drafting a preliminary timeline for your Broader Impacts work.
- Empower others to help keep the momentum going: If there is a way to have your graduate students or other staff you work with help lead some portions of your Broader Impacts activities, it can both serve as a good professional experience for them and help you make progress on your Broader Impacts activities. This is particularly effective if you match your Broader Impacts activities to individuals with a strong passion or interest in that activity/impact area.
- Document key activities as they take place: Keep track of who you work with to execute your activities and document how they go in real-time (pictures, brief summaries written right after key events/steps, etc…). By accumulating records in real-time and making them easy to find, you will make the process of writing the Broader Impacts portion of your Annual Report much easier!
Evaluating Your Broader Impacts Activities
Being able to describe your plan for assessing your Broader Impacts activities is one way to differentiate your proposal from others that present similar ideas. There are no prescribed ways the NSF expects you to measure your impact, but some tips for developing effective evaluations for your activities are below:
- Bring in the expertise of a collaboration partner: If you are working with another group that has expertise related to your Broader Impacts activities (e.g., the Science Outreach office or CSATS for K-12 outreach), talk to them about how they can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your activities. If assessment is discussed ahead of time, they can often use their experience and resources to lead the assessment process and save you time.
- Keep it simple: A misconception many have is that the assessment of Broader Impacts has to complicated and comprehensive. Think of what main impact you’d like to see from your activities and devise 1-2 simple measures you can use to see whether you are meeting that target.
- Use tools available at Penn State: Penn State has many tools and resources that can be used to help you with your assessment (e.g., Qualtrics – a sophisticated survey tool that PSU faculty/staff can get licenses for through PSU). Take advantage of them!
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or suggestions for how we can improve this resource center! Additionally, we would love to hear if you have Broader Impacts grant or activity examples you would like to share!