The National Science Foundation's Broader Impacts merit review criterion relates to the potential of a project to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.  This page provides basic information about Broader Impacts and identifies University of Iowa resources to help you meet this requirement.

Basic Information:




University of Iowa partners and resources to help you address the broader impacts criterion

For a more comprehensive listing of campus partners, please see the Office of Outreach & Engagement Program Directory.

Broader Impacts External Resources




Examples of research projects incorporating broader impacts

Working with the UI Mobile Museum, Tori Forbes, Professor of Chemistry, helped craft an exhibit that allows visitors to manipulate models of water molecules into different configurations.




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Scott Baalrud, Professor of Physics & Astronomy, will introduce the public to plasma physics through an interactive "What is Plasma" demonstration. The demonstration will be an integral part of a larger exhibit on the history of space science at the University of Iowa to be displayed in the UI Old Capitol Museum, and later as a traveling exhibit in the UI Mobile Museum.








One of the broader impacts outlined in Professor Maurine Neiman’s NSF grant application was to provide opportunities for student training and career development in evolutionary biology, molecular genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics. Prof. Neiman works with a diverse array of university (e.g., ICRU, IBA, SROP), community (e.g., Iowa City Darwin Day), and national (e.g., National Center for Science Education) organizations to consistently offer laboratory, field, and science outreach experiences for undergraduate, graduate, and high school students.




University of Iowa NSF Awards 

Click here for a list of active University of Iowa NSF grants.

NSF Broader Impact FAQs 

Jump to specific topics:

  1. Where can I find text that defines broader impacts?
  2. What are some elements of a well-written broader impacts section?
  3. What is the PI’s responsibility for developing metrics to assess their broader impacts outcomes and provide those at project report time?
  4. How are merit review principles to be used by Principal Investigators, reviewers, or Program Officers?
  5. What does "in the aggregate" mean in the second merit review principle?
  6. The third review element asks whether the plan is well-reasoned and incorporates a mechanism to assess success. Does this mean that PIs will want to lay out plans for assessment of their Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts activities? Will reviewers be expected to comment on whether the proposal includes plans for assessment of these activities and whether they are sound?
  7. There seems to be a tension between the third merit review principle and the third review element. Although there is not a need for individual project assessment, the PI must have a plan to assess success. Can NSF explain this apparent discrepancy?
  8. In the new list of elements to consider in the review, there are 1(a), 1(b), 2, 3, 4, and 5. Are these intended to mean that in evaluation of the Intellectual Merit of the project, elements 1(a), 2, 3, 4, and 5 are to be used, and in evaluation of the Broader Impacts of a project, elements 1(b), 2, 3, 4, and 5 are to be used? Or does this mean that in evaluation of the Broader Impacts of a project, only 1(b) need be considered?
  9. Review element #2 asks: “To what extent do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?” How does this apply to Broader Impacts?
  10. The second merit review principle states that, “The project activities may be based on previously established and/or innovative methods and approaches, but in either case must be well justified.” How does this relate to the second review element regarding “creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts?
  11. Are there weights assigned to the review criteria?