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How broad are our broader impacts? An analysis of the National Science Foundation's Ecosystem Studies Program and the Broader Impacts requirement

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has tried to narrow the gap between science and society with its Broader Impacts criterion. We analyzed the proposed Broader Impacts (ie the activities that benefit society through teaching, broadening participation, enhancing infrastructure, and disseminating research) of proposals funded by NSF's Ecosystem Studies Program. We obtained abstracts from 296 funded proposals from NSF's website and characterized the scope of the proposed Broader Impacts (2000–2009). Only 65% of abstracts included a Broader Impacts statement and, of those, 57 (19%) included just one of five NSF broader impacts activities (BIAs). The most frequent component was teaching and training (37%), followed by broad dissemination (22%), infrastructure enhancement (18%), benefits to society (13%), and underrepresented groups (11%). Most proposed audiences were small (61%) to medium-sized (32%) and were closely associated with academics. NSF as a whole, and Program Officers in the Ecosystem Studies Program in particular, are generally reinforcing the importance of BIAs, but improvements are required within the academic culture. NSF needs to create new mechanisms that make grantees accountable for BIAs and provide positive feedback for those efforts. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Ecological Society of America
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