Broader Impacts - A Provocative New Look

Carol Lynn Alpert

NSF's Broader Impacts Criterion (BIC) gets a provocative re-examination in a special issue of the British journal Social Epistemology, and in that issue, the NISE Net's focus on science museum - research center partnerships is included as a model for authenticating and reinforcing the intentions of the BIC framers. The issue was edited by J. Britt Holbrook of the University of North Texas and grew out of an NSF-funded workshop held at the Colorado School of Mines in the summer of 2007, The workshop invited researchers of science, technology, and society (ROSTS) to come together to contemplate ways their work could be integrated into the BIC activities of NSF-funded science and engineering research centers.  (Those of you who have read the BIC, have noticed that it's current wording encourages researchers to explore the "benefits" of their research to society, but does not happen to mention the value of exploring potential risks.)

The NISE Net paper, "Broadening and Deepening the Impact: A Theoretical Framework for Partnerships between Science Museums and Research Centres," takes a look at some of the difficulties researchers have had trying to respond to the BIC by initiating education outreach activities - for which they often feel ill-equipped and ill-prepared, and presents the science museum partnership through subaward model (RISE) as a healthy alternative for both partners, constitutents and funders.  The paper also notes that the National Nanotechnology Initiative is the first federal science intiative to lay out a roadmap that explicity includes funding for centers devoted to the larger BIC agenda - including societal implications, environmental health and safety, education and outreach, public engagement.

A free, pre-publication, author's version of the NISE Net paper is available here and on the RISE page.