Crafting and evaluating Broader Impact activities: a theory-based guide for scientists

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Abstract

To secure research funding from grant-awarding agencies such as the US National Science Foundation, scientists – despite not typically being trained in non-technical communication or public engagement – must competitively formulate so-called Broader Impacts activities. Dissemination activities are often proposed as Broader Impacts of research, but what characteristics of these activities truly indicate their potential to be “broad” or “impactful”? How can the “impacts” of very different activities be fairly compared during peer review? Combining the experiences of successful practitioners with communication theory, I have synthesized a five-point framework that could help both proposers and reviewers craft and compare Broader Impacts dissemination activities. This “Broader Impacts Impact Framework” summarizes best practices in communication and outreach, and can be easily used by scientists during proposal writing and review. This framework focuses on five main factors: who, why, what, how, and with whom.

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