April 15, 2007

Organizing Efforts to Address Broader Impacts Requirements of Proposals for Individual PIs

Committee on Student Development and Academic Development

Description of efforts to broaden the impact of federally funded grants is becoming an increasingly important part of proposal writing. Individual PIs with little time on their hands are being asked to answer questions such as: How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? What may be the benefits of the proposed activity to society? Like most endeavors in teaching and research, it is very difficult to accomplish these tasks unless one is organized.

The Committee on Student Development and Academic Development was established in 1964 (under the name Special Scholarships Committee) to enhance the diversity of faculty and students at UCB and other prestigious institutions of higher education. In 1974, this committee established the Professional Development Program (PDP) to encourage students from disadvantaged groups to come to UCB and enroll in all degree programs in substantial numbers. Today, PDP works closely with more than 500 students and their instructors in middle school, high school, and at UCB to ensure that students receive a strong academic foundation and valuable research experiences in their pursuit of college and graduate or professional school.

We, the members of SDAD and PDP, would like to offer organized avenues for faculty who wish to broaden the impact of their federally funded grants. We will provide documents and inputs that will be tailor-made for inclusion in proposals, (e.g., NSF, NIH, DOE). We will also ensure that your commitments toward broader impacts are met efficiently after your proposal has been approved and funded.

Here are two examples of activities that faculty can participate in:

(1) The PDP has an ongoing program with local schools (for example, Willard Middle School and El Cerrito High School) where faculty can observe teachers while they teach. At the end of the teaching session, the professor and teacher might share their uses of the material taught, or talk about various ways to introduce that material, or about related math or science topics and resources that might interest the teacher.

(2) Every summer, high school students going into 7th through 11th grades come to UC Berkeley for a six-week series of Pre-Engineering and Mathematics. We would like to identify professors who would be willing to give one lecture to the students. This might deal with the use of math, science, or engineering in their own research, or could be on any topic of their choosing.

In Fall 2005, one of the members of SDAD and a coauthor of this article (Nitash Balsara) obtained an NSF grant with a broader impact program that was coupled to the summer high school program run by the PDP [example (2)]. It was convenient to conduct broader impact activities in the summer. A very knowledgeable PDP teaching assistant (TA) met me at the beginning of the summer to discuss the contents of the lecture. Demonstrations and hands-on activities were important and the TA helped in the design of these activities. An apparatus for demonstrating the concepts that were being taught was designed and built. A three-hour lecture/demonstration class was given on July 14, 2006, to students from Willard Middle School. It was clear that the lecture that might have been delivered without the assistance of the PDP staff would have made no sense to the high school students.

It is now quite common to include the cost of broader impact activities in proposed budgets. A faculty member wishing to include such material is invited to contact PDP or members of SDAD. We will help with the proposal writing, and will suggest inclusion of specific funds that will be used by PDP to complete the proposed broader impact mission. With your help, the University of California, Berkeley can continue to enrich the lives of students and teachers in local schools — despite the State of California’s abandonment of University broader impact efforts.

Examples of paragraphs taken from the broader impact section of successful grants are displayed here. If you are interested in this, or if you have established similar programs already and would like to join forces with us please contact: Steven Chin, PDP Director at pdpsteve@berkeley.edu or 643-6260 or Nitash Balsara, Professor of Chemical Engineering at nbalsara@cchem.berkeley.edu or 642-8973.

- Professor Nitash Balsara