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About Broadening Participation in Computing for NSF CISE Proposals

The purpose of this page is to provide guidance for Allen School faculty members to prepare, execute, and evaluate their Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) plans within their National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) proposals and funded projects. NSF generally defines BPC as increasing the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, and persons with disabilities in computing fields.

In June 2017, the Assistant Director of the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), Dr. Jim Kurose, announced in a dear colleague letter "a pilot effort to enhance the community's awareness of and barriers to broadening participation in computing (BPC), as well as to provide information and resources to principal investigators (PIs) so that they can develop interest, skills, and activities in support of BPC at all levels (K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate).” As a result “all CISE PIs will be strongly encouraged to include meaningful BPC plans in the Broader Impacts section of submitted proposals, starting with deadlines in fall 2017 (refer to program-specific solicitations for details), and/or to begin preparing to include such plans in future proposal submissions.” Individual solicitations from CISE describe how BPC plans will be requested. Specific information includes:

  • The CISE BPC webpage.
  • The CISE BPC FAQ.
  • A white paper posted by NSF CISE reporting on what an ideal BPC plan would look like based on the first round of BPC plans submitted.
  • BPCNet, an NSF-funded CRA activity to assist in creating individual and departmental BPC plans.
  • A set of slides presented by Jeff Forbes (NSF) and Colleen Lewis (UIUC) at a 7/16/2020 webinar Writing a BPC Plan for Your NSF Proposal. "Follow the template as described on slide 13" was one of many key messages. See also the "Pitfalls" as described on slide 16. There was a fair amount of additional information presented orally and in the Q&A - here's the one-hour video. Jeff and Colleen repeated this on 8/16/2020 - slides and video.

Additional resources that may be helpful in crafting BPC plans are listed below. The resources are divided into four categories: (i) Allen School, (ii) College of Engineering and University of Washington, (iii) regional, and (iv) national. In many cases, faculty members can tie their BPC plans to existing programs, which offers a number of advantages. However, strategies for faculty members to create their own BPC plan separate from the existing resources are described at the end.

Creating Your BPC Plan

First consider the typical wording in an NSF solicitation. The following is found in Computer and Network Systems (CNS): Core Programs, NSF 18-569.

BROADENING PARTICIPATION IN COMPUTING

CISE has long been committed to Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC). The under-representation of many groups—including women, African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Native Pacific Islanders, and persons with disabilities—in computing deprives large segments of the population of the opportunity to be creators of technology and not only consumers. Ending underrepresentation will require a range of measures, including institutional programs and activities as well as culture change across colleges, departments, classes, and research groups.

With this solicitation, CISE is expanding a pilot effort started last year encouraging the research community to engage in meaningful BPC activities. This new activity builds on many of the programs, research, and resources created in CISE's long history of support for BPC, and it aligns with the recommendations of the Strategic Plan for Broadening Participation produced by the CISE Advisory Committee in 2011. Specifically:

  • Each Medium and Large project must, by the time of award, have in place an approved BPC plan. In this ongoing pilot phase, CISE will work with each PI team following merit review and prior to making an award to ensure that plans are meaningful and include concrete metrics for success. CISE will also provide opportunities for PIs to share BPC experiences and innovations through program PI meetings. PIs of Medium and Large proposals are therefore strongly encouraged to consider this eventual requirement as they develop their proposals, and to include one- to three-page descriptions of their planned BPC activities under Supplementary Documents in their submissions. Feedback will be provided on such plans.
  • PIs submitting to the Small size class should note that CISE intends to conduct an evaluation of the effectiveness of the above approach and determine appropriate next steps, including potential further expansion of this effort in future years. PIs of Small proposals are therefore strongly encouraged to include plans, or begin preparing to include plans, for broadening participation activities in their proposals. 

In other words, as of the time of this solicitation, for medium and large proposals a BPC plan is required, and for small proposals it is encouraged. A BPC plan is one to three pages to be put into supplementary documents. These plans are reviewed by experts in broadening participation, not by experts in the technical area of the proposal.

A BPC plan should be concrete and actionable, and not a statement about Broader Impacts as required in all NSF proposals. A BPC plan does not have to directly relate to the research in the proposal, but should somehow help bring more people of diverse backgrounds into computing. If funding for the BPC plan is needed, it should be included in the budget. If the BPC plan involves an activity for participants, the costs to support their participation should be listed under “Participant Support Costs” in the budget - this carries zero overhead.

There is an excellent Getting Started on Your BPC Plan document that is very helpful in organizing your plan. The document list five components to the plan, which also suggests a format for the plan:

  1. Context: Describe the problem or need to be addressed, and situate it in your departmental, institutional, demographic, and geographic context. Provide a rationale or hypothesis for why your approach makes sense. Succinctly describe the measurable goals of the BPC plan.
  2. Target: Specify the intended population and provide clear demographic data on that population.
  3. Strategy: Identify the specific activities to be conducted. Explain how the activities are tailored to the target audience. Show awareness of resources required along with the need to follow best or promising practices. Include a timeline.
  4. BPC Prior Work: PIs who have existing/prior BPC activities should describe results and lessons learned from those activities, and relate them to the efforts to be undertaken as part of this current proposal by addressing how they have contributed to any change or growth reflected in the current plan. PIs with no prior experience with BPC should identify any preparation and/or training that may be needed to ensure that their labs/teams/students are prepared to conduct the proposed BPC activities.
  5. Measurement and Dissemination: Include a plan for meaningful assessment to measure progress toward the stated BPC goals. The scale of the assessment and evaluation plan will correspond to the scale of the BPC effort. Provide a strategy for sharing results of the implementation to allow others to learn about effective new models and strategies.

Additional ideas to consider when creating your BPC plan include:

  1. Explain the local context that relates to your activity, not just general national context. This may include diversity data from the school.
  2. The target group should be fairly specific. Common target audiences include girls or women; underrepresented minority students (at the UW, this includes African American, Native American, Hispanic/Chicano/Latino, Hawaiian and Pacific Islander, and sometimes Southeast Asian); people with disabilities; or people from low-income backgrounds. Also indicate what age group is being targeted: K-12, college students, graduate students.
  3. The strategy has several factors. Describe the content: Robotics, fabrication, Arduino or other electronics, programming, user design, big data, graphics, animation, computer vision, NLP, computer science theory. Describe the actual activity: workshop, after school program, hackathon. Describe any existing program that will be partnered with. Describe where and when the activity will take place. Describe why the specific activity was selected. Describe the recuitment plan. There are some best practrices that can be found at resources such as NCWIT, BRAID, or ACM SIGCSE that may help in arguing the efficacy of the activity.
  4. Describe any personal BPC prior experience, not just the diversity activities in the school. If there is no prior BPC experience, explain what resources will be used to better understand the needs of the target group.
  5. Evaluation can be done in several ways, including pre and post surveys, or evaluations done by a partnering organization. There are ways to disseminate the activity to others using the CSE News Blog. The activity could be described in a SIGCSE experience report.
  6. An activity my have costs that should appear in the budget.

The Allen School K-12 outreach team plans many events and activities, and is happy to consult with you on logistics and best practices for working with K-12 students, including drafting a budget, liability considerations, and recruiting participants.

Examples of Specific BPC Activities

Allen School Resources

Note: We are actively working on a departmental BPC plan - specific guidance for activities that you can "plug into" in your own BPC plan. Stay tuned!

The Allen School is a community that celebrates and values differences among its members. We strive to create an inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds. Faculty and staff have developed programs to broaden participation in computing. Activities supporting this commitment of diversity and inclusion can be found on the Allen School Diversity and Inclusion website. A specific place to find ongoing programs with which you could connect in your BPC efforts is the Ongoing Activities tab of that website. There are also a number of Allen School staff members with whom you might consult (including to learn who to contact regarding the various ongoing activities), including:

  • Chloe Dolese Mandeville, Program Manager for Diversity & Access, whose focus is undergraduate diversity equity, and inclusion (including outreach, recruiting, and support).
  • Leslie Ikeda, Undergraduate Retention Specialist, whose focus is undergraduate student support and retention.
  • Elise deGoede Dorough, Director of Graduate Student Services, whose responsibilities include graduate program diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Les Sessoms, Graduate Recruitment & Retention Specialist, whose focus is graduate student recruitment, support and retention.

Faculty members Dan Grossman, Richard Ladner, Ed Lazowska, and Jennifer Mankoff also have significant engagement in School-wide activities.

The Allen School K-12 outreach team is happy to engage new people in their existing work, develop new programming with you, or consult on logistics and best practices for working with K-12 students, such as budgeting, liability considerations, and recruiting participants. Some activities that may interest faculty include:

  • DawgBytes: These programs may be open to any interested K-12 student, or may be offered for specific student groups or populations. Summer camps happen throughout July and August, while the rest of the activities happen throughout the academic year.
    • 1-day workshops for middle and high school students
    • 1- and 2-week summer camps for middle and high school students
    • Research demos and lab tours on campus
    • Visits to local classrooms, clubs, science fairs, and career fairs A CS track in
  • Math Academy, a multi-week project for a group of 10-15 students 
  • CS4Teachers, a professional development workshop for middle school and high school teachers.
    • Additional opportunities to work with K-12 teachers may be available through the Allen School and the PSCSTA
  • CSE Startup, a 1-month course to help incoming CS majors acclimate to the school.
  • CS Open House, a one day event for families to see the various facets of education and research programs.
  • Taskar Center for Accessible Technology has several activities that could be tied into BPC plan.

Faculty interested in partnering with our Outreach team on any of the above activities should email outreach@cs.uw.edu. Faculty could partner with the Outreach team in a variety of capacities, from offering a short research demo to designing and leading a new summer camp. Typically, the Outreach team can provide logistical support in recruiting students and arranging space, food, and volunteers, while faculty collaborators will provide content and instruction.

College and University Resources

College of Engineering activities related to broadening participation primarily focus on pre-college and undergraduate support for women, underrepresented minority students, and students from low-income backgrounds.

Faculty interested in collaborating on any of the programs below can find individual contacts on each program webpage. Before reaching out, though, check with the Allen School contacts listed above - the Allen School has ongoing relationships and activities with many of these programs. Examples of College of Engineering programs include:

  • Washington STate Academic RedShirt (STARS) program that supports engineering and computer science students from low-income, first-generation, and underserved backgrounds in navigating the transition to college-level engineering courses.
  • Promoting Equity in Engineering Relationships (PEERS) program that includes a course that teaches students to teach their peers to be change-agents for increased diversity.
  • Minority Scholars Engineering Program (MSEP) program that promotes academic excellence, facilitates leadership skills, and fosters community of engineering scholars. Students take part in academic workshops and seminars, attend the Men of Color in Engineering Leadership Series, and connect with identity-based student societies.

The University has many programs that promote diversity and inclusion. Some activities that faculty could participate in are:

  • DO-IT has a summer scholars program for high school students with disabilities.
  • Graduate School/Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program (GO-MAP) that works with graduate students, faculty and staff to strengthen and maintain campus diversity while enhancing academic opportunities for graduate students of color and encouraging scholarship and research that explores cultural diversity.
  • Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium that has University of Washington as a member. The Space Grant Program supports from high school and beyond with research internships.
  • UW Undergraduate Research Program that promotes undergraduate research university wide and sponsors the Mary Gates Research Scholarships.

Community Resources

There are many community resources that faculty member could tie into. Among them are:

  • Pacific Science Center has many programs and does interact with the University of Washington.
  • Living Computers Museum + Labs is a computer and technology museum located in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. It showcases vintage computers which provide interactive sessions, either through time-sharing operating systems or single-user interfaces.
  • Technology Access Foundation (TAF) works to improve access to STEM and technology fields for students of color and underrepresented communities for the past twenty years.
  • Geeking Out Kids of Color (GOKiC) works on tech education with racial equity and social justice.
  • Puget Sound Computer Science Teachers Association lists local computer science teachers who might be interested in your project.
  • Girl Scouts of Western Washington may have interest in your project and may help with recruitment.
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of King County actively recruits partners to work on a project like yours.
  • Schools: If you plan to collaborate with local schools, please send info on your work to outreach@cs.uw.edu, so our K-12 outreach team can coordinate our work with yours. We can also suggest schools to you based on the target population you hope to work with.
  • More will be added as we learn about them.

National Resources

Many national resources focus on broadening participation, and may provide program ideas and potential partnerships.