A way to fulfill the broader impacts requirement of the NSF merit criteria is to integrate groups that are historically underrepresented in STEM fields into your research and outreach. (I’ve listed the most frequently referenced groups below). NSF indicates that one way to practically achieve this goal is to partner with academic and other organizations that serve these groups, i.e., by “reaching out to Institutions with diverse research and instructional goals and practices, including community colleges, minority serving institutions, women’s colleges, and institutions for people with disabilities. “

In older literature circa 2008 there are also references to a role for partnering with “non-Ph.D.-granting institutions”, likely b/c schools that don’t offer advanced degrees give their students less exposure to advanced STEM research, and also can't expose students to the dynamics of graduate study.

I’m wondering if NSF has phased out this emphasis on collaboration with teaching-focused college or if it still exists.

Specific Underrepresented groups mentioned in NSF literature

  • Alaska Natives, Native Americans
  • Blacks or African Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Native Hawaiians, Other Pacific Islanders
  • Persons with Disabilities

Misc Notes:

  • 6
    Rule 0 on all NSF questions: ASK YOUR PROGRAM OFFICER. Dec 28, 2016 at 6:49
  • 3
    I believe the full text of "Rule 0" is "call your program officer; don't email, don't leave a voice mail - ASK THEM ON THE PHONE"
    – N Brouwer
    Dec 28, 2016 at 14:50

1 Answer 1


I think the reason we want to increase representation of underrepresented groups is that they have the inherent potential for higher representation and achievement and just need some help getting going.

You can't say

I decided to do recruit theatre majors to our math PhD program, because theatre majors are underrepresented in our program compared to math and science majors.

Theatre majors don't, as such, have inherent potential to do well in math. (Or if they do, some other example will serve to illustrate the point.)

So you'd want to make the case (or have the case already be clear*) that the institution not offering a graduate degree was serving students with inherent potential to do better.

*Regarding that, see @ElizabethHenning's comment below.

  • 1
    This misses the point. I don't know what the NSF is doing these days in this regard, but the intention is that partnering with non-PhD granting institutions is an indirect way to increase participation of underrepresented groups because they are more likely to attend such institutions. Oct 15, 2017 at 4:35
  • @ElizabethHenning Ah okay that's subtly different from what I wrote although I like to think it complements what I wrote Oct 15, 2017 at 4:57

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