On being the broader impact

I'm writing a proposal.

This, is not actual news.  It is part of everyday academic life.  We chase money.  I'm a bit ambivalent about the proposal writing thing.  Some faculty members hate it; it's putting a price on science! Some faculty members love it; they are mostly the ones that are good at it.  I'm in the middle, to me it's just a necessary step on the way to doing the fun stuff.  Science costs money, therefore I must find money.

Proposal writing, in general, isn't really my point today.  I want to talk about a specific, rather modern aspect of proposal writing.  The "broader impacts".  It's been talked about before by those more experienced than me (just search broader impacts there and you'll get an array of results).  Today, I'm contemplating this exact issue.  Whether we like or not, whether we agree with it or not, by definition every women in science is a broader impact.  We can choose to include it explicitly in our proposals, or we can choose to ignore it.  On my own I'd opt for the latter. Today, I'm not writing a proposal on my own.  It's a collaborative project between 5 people. For tenured men and me.  The lastest draft includes a little subsection entitled Underrepresented Groups.  Not out of the normal in the context of BI in proposals.  But there it was: "Dr. Rini is a female junior tenure track scientist."

In the end it is what it is, and there isn't anything drastic I can do to change it.  In the grand scheme of proposal writing, we argue about the science, the objectives, the budgets.  We never once talk about this particular sentence.   But here is my feeling, as a women, as a scientist:

I hate being a broader impact.  I'd like to have a broader impact.  But, I don't want to be a broader impact. 


fiddlestixknits.com said...

Well said. There's obviously a lot of anxiety about increasing "minority" representation in a multitude of fields, but the way institutions go about attacking this problem seems to be misguided.

I agree that it's particularly frustrating that the broader impact (obviously a euphemism for minority/marginalized and/or "token" person) is trotted out to get money. Perhaps it's because in the US, we think that money can quite literally compensate or pay for everything, even institutionalized racism, sexism, and discrimination in general?

Leah said...

agree completely! :)