Implementation of the National Science Foundation's “Broader Impacts”: Efficiency Considerations and Alternative Approaches

Social Epistemology 23 (3):221-237 (2011)
Abstract
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has, since 1997, attempted to diversify and enrich science research and education in the USA through the Broader Impacts Criterion (BIC), also known as “Criterion Two” or the “Second Criterion”. In doing so, NSF has so successfully integrated BIC into its discovery grant funding programmes that it has become difficult to assess the efficiency (in an economic sense) of BIC activities, as opposed to cataloguing its products (number of trainees, publications, etc.). Moreover, current practice at NSF requires that each and every Principal Investigator receiving a discovery grant address both Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities and broader impacts, despite the fact that their formal training is most likely to be in only one of these areas. Against this backdrop, I consider NSF spending on broader impacts, conduct a microeconomic analysis of effectiveness of BIC expenditures, and discuss alternative funding models and Principal Investigator profiles and expertise sets that might not only accelerate the goals of expanding NSF's broader impact, but additionally enhance the quality of science funded by this agency
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