Broader Impacts Across Borders

by SRA International on Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The National Alliance for Broader Impacts (NABI) is a NSF-funded network of individuals and organizations working together to build institutional capacity, advance BI, and demonstrate the societal benefits of research. The goal of NABI is to create a community of practice that fosters the development of sustainable and scalable institutional capacity and engagement in broader impacts activity. This goal will be accomplished through the achievement of the following four objectives:

  • Identify and curate promising models, practices and evaluation methods for the BI community;
  • Expand engagement in and support the development of high-quality BI activities by educating current and future faculty and researchers on effective BI practices;
  • Develop the human resources necessary for sustained growth and increased diversity of the BI community; and
  • Promote cross-institutional collaboration on and dissemination of BI programs, practices, models, materials and resources.

Research Impact Canada (RIC) is a pan-Canadian network of 12 academic institutions committed to maximizing the impact of academic research for the social, economic, environmental and health benefits of Canadians. Founded in 2006, RIC is committed to developing institutional capacities to support knowledge mobilization by developing and sharing knowledge mobilization best practices, services and tools. Knowledge mobilization is concerned with research that has the potential to inform decisions about public policy, professional practice and social programs. Knowledge mobilization works with research(ers) from the social sciences and humanities, engineering and the health and natural sciences. Partners for knowledge mobilization can be from the public, community/non-profit and the private sector. Knowledge mobilization also supports engagement of research and researchers with the broader public. Knowledge brokers at RIC institutions begin at the grant application stage to help communicate the impacts of research.

Two national networks both supporting research impact practitioners (including researchers, students and their research and impact partners)…of course we were going to bump into each other but it was a circuitous route. We - Susan Renoe (University of Missouri) and David Phipps (York University, Canada) - met through impact colleagues in Europe. We had to connect via Europe when we are only just across the border. But when we met it was like impact twins separated at birth.

Impact twins maybe, but what is interesting are the differences between the two networks.

  • NSF is not prescriptive when it comes to impact but they do suggest several areas where broader impacts activities could focus including STEM education, public engagement with science, improved science literacy, national security, workforce development, among others, with a special focus on broadening participation of underrepresented groups in STEM. Impact for RIC is any positive change on public awareness, policy, social services or professional practice.
  • NABI members are primarily research professional staff seeking to learn more about best BI practices and to operationalize their BI strategies at their home institution. RIC members are research institutions, usually signed up by the VP Research or equivalent. RIC is a community of practice of knowledge brokers (professional research impact practitioners) working under their VPs or equivalent.
  • NSF dominates the NABI conversations, but similar to the impact work of RIC spans all disciplines and all research funding agencies.
  • NABI is (for now) funded by an NSF grant. RIC is funded by institutional membership fees.

It is because of our similarities but also our differences that we saw an opportunity to collaborate so we can create learning opportunities for the two networks. Late in 2016 the two networks signed an MOU creating opportunities for collaboration and exchange. It is early days and we are just at the “getting to know you” stage. We are starting our collaboration by connecting at the annual NABI Summit (April 26-28 in Stevenson, Washington) and the Canadian Knowledge Mobilization Forum (May 17-18 in Ottawa, Canada).

Join the international impact party at either or both of these events. For more information please contact: 

Susan Renoe, Director, Broader Impacts Network, University of Missouri,

David Phipps, Executive Director, Research & Innovation Services, York University,