a special issue of Social Epistemology on the US National Science Foundation's Broader Impacts Merit Review Criterion December 2009
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Guest Editor J. Britt Holbrook
In 1997, the National Science Foundation (NSF) altered its merit review criteria for grant proposals to raise the profile of the societal impacts of public funding for basic scientific and technical research. Scientists and engineers were now being asked not only to propose scientifically and technically excellent work (What is the intellectual merit of the proposed activity? NSF asks), but also to account for its societal relevance (What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity? NSF also asks).
The Broader Impacts Criterion (BIC) was greeted with immediate resistance; and after more than a decade, the scientific and engineering community continues to give the broader impacts criterion mixed reviews, even while NSF continues to work steadily toward increasing the quality of responses to the broader impacts criterion. Members of Congress have watched the drama play out over the years, with occasional calls for reports on BIC's effectiveness (e.g., Sec. 7022 of the America COMPETES Act) and suggestions for how to interpret BIC (e.g., Sec. 7008 and Sec. 7009 of the America COMPETES Act); but their interest in the broader impacts of science and technology funding will surely grow with the recent economic crisis and their passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The most comprehensive collection of articles devoted to the saga of broader impacts, this volume traces the impact of BIC since its inception. Featuring articles from scientists, philosophers, STS scholars, informal science education and public outreach professionals, and instructors in responsible conduct of research, this volume is sure to become an essential reference for scientists, engineers, policy makers, and citizens interested in the return on their investments in basic research.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 064957.