Potential BI Program Red Flags

Early Warning Sings That Your BI Program Is Ineffective and How it Translates or Appears To Reviewers For Agency and Foundation Proposals

Using broader impacts is a lifestyle choice, a paradigm shift in how one thinks, plans, and operates. Both the Broader Impacts Conceptual Framework (BICF) and the Scholarship of Broader Impacts (SoBI) support and advocate this perspective. This means that developing a sustainable program or portfolio based on your professional identity, one that is linked to specific contextualized and integrated activities is preferable to simply organizing a set of activities and stating them on an agency or foundation grant application.

When rushed, unplanned and unsustainable activities or actions become the sole focus of almost anything. As this happens, the likelihood that problems will occur increases. The same is true for BI. When BI plans, programs, and activities are rushed, unplanned, and are written into a proposal for funding. Left unchecked, these can and do appear as “red flags”. These red flags negatively impact agency and foundation reviews of your grant application.

Provided below is a list of warning signs that relate to the start of any BI planning, development, writing, and implementation. This is accompanied by a few responses you might get that demonstrates your BI proposal section has been “red flagged” by reviewers.

Furthermore, there are also two specific responses provided by reviewers which are called the “Kiss of Death Red Flags”.  These are: (1) reviews that have no comments and just marked as either “very poor”, “poor”, or “good” and (2) those that are returned without review. You never want to get these for several reasons, but it can happen if you are not careful.

Note: This a living document. I have provided three examples of “early warning signs” below. More will be added when time permits and as deemed appropriate. If there are other “early warning signs” you want to know about or would like added to the list, please contact me. There are many that I have yet to add.


Early Warning Sign 1. You waited until the last moment to write your BI sections. Meaning 1-2 days before you have to submit your proposal, provide it to the designated routing individual, or send it to your research office to be routed for submission. You have not previously developed a BI program with on-going activities so you make a few calls and come up with three to four activities that can be done and put them in the BI section of your proposal.

Sample of Reviewers Potential Comments: BI section not well organized; BI not well justified; PI did not describe BI activities in sufficient detail; PI proposed multiple, disjointed BI activities without having one well-developed main activity; BI summary does not align with BI proposed activities; PI is not well suited to complete BI activities and what is proposed is lacking in evaluation and supporting and supplemental documents; the PI’s BI sections are not well integrated with the proposed research; PI failed to adequately respond to the solicitation. You may also become a very good candidate for the Kiss of Death Red Flag #1 and Kiss of Death Red Flag #2.


Early Warning Sign 2.You are either working on a PI/CoPI small (for a small award) proposal or you are the PI for a large (for a large award) proposal. As a PI for the small proposal you have developed a highly integrated, innovative, and creative BI section. Its sure to be reviewed favorably. As a PI for a large proposal you have assigned individuals to the BI section of the proposal. For this too, you and your colleagues have developed a highly integrated, innovative, and creative BI section. You and your colleagues have even included a well laid out evaluation and assessment protocol to determine success. In both cases you submit these proposals on time and maybe with even a day to spare.

However, as the PI on the small proposal you did not consider budgeting 10%-20% percent for your BI. As the PI on the large proposal you did not include or consult with those who developed the BI section along with others who would be doing the BI work about what should be budgeted for the BI activities.

Sample of Reviewers Potential Comments: Proposed BI activities are not feasible; The reviewer is concerned about the PI’s ability to complete the proposed BI plan;  the PI’s BI section is not well integrated with the proposed research: The PI’s research is well thought out and documented but does not align or is not integrated with other parts of the proposal; The reviewer is not sure the PI can accomplish the proposed BI activities and program.  You may also become a candidate for Kiss of Death Red Flag #1.


Early Warning Sign 3: You have been awarded in the past. So, this time around you take what you did in your old BI sections or parts of it, change it up a little, contextualize it for this new proposal, and submit it.

Sample of Reviewers Potential Comments: The reviewer is not sure what new value these activities will bring; BI section is not well integrated with the PI’s research; BI activities, plan, or program not innovative or creative; BI wrote too much about what they have done in the past but not what they will be doing for the future; Budget does not align with what is proposed; The proposed activities may not be able to be sustained for the duration of the award. You might also become a candidate for Kiss of Death Red Flag #1.

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