In general, when reviewing NSF GRFP applications reviewers are asked to consider the two Merit Review Criteria – the Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts.
Where Should You Address These Criteria?
These criteria should be addressed in both your essays.
Broader impact refers to the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes. This relates to 1) the potential of the applicant for future broader impacts and, 2) broader impacts may be accomplished through the research itself (through either “the activities that are directly related to specific research projects, or through activities that are supported by, but are complementary to, the project“)
Specifically, the NSF values:
- Participation of women, persons with disabilities, and URMs in STEM fields
- Improved STEM education and educator development
- Increased public scientific literacy and public engagement with science and technology
- Improved well-being of individuals in society
- Development of a diverse STEM workforce
- Increased partnerships between academia & industry
- Improved national security
- Increased economic competitiveness of the US
- Enhanced infrastructure for research and education.
Intellectual merit refers to the potential to advance knowledge. This can be evident through your previous research, explanation of the resources available to you, and potential of the proposed project to advance knowledge and understanding.
Per the NSF…
Per the NSF, the following should be considered:
1. What is the potential for the proposed activity to
A. Advance knowledge and understanding within its own field or across different fields (Intellectual Merit);
B. Benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes (Broader Impacts)?
2. To what extend do the proposed activities suggest and explore creative, original or potentially transformative concepts?
3. Is the plan for carrying out the proposed activities well-reasoned, well-organize and based on sound rationale? Does the plan incorporate a mechanism to assess success?
4. How well qualified is the individual, team, or organization to conduct the proposed activities?
5. Are there adequate resources available to the PI (either at the home organization or through collaborations) to carry out the proposed activities?
- Make these sections visible. Refer to them by name/bold relevant passages/or even separate these sections out. Reviewers have a rubric for describing how the application meets these two criteria, and you want to make it as easy as possible for the reviewers to find this information
- Ask reference writers to mention how they have witnessed your merits in these two review citeria
- There are many ways to address broader impacts:
- Show past engagement with community outreach – that you have promoted science outside of academia
- Show that you have worked with international researchers / diverse populations in the past
- Show past engagement in mentoring
- Show past leadership experience
- Teach others about your research via technology