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Directorate for Engineering

Broadening Participation in Engineering  (BPE)


Name Email Phone Room
Bevlee  Watford bwatford@nsf.gov (703) 292-4763   

It is recommended that all potential investigators contact a cognizant program officer before submission through the Broadening Participation Opportunities Track or the Broadening Participation Strategy Track of this program description.


Apply to PD 14-7680 as follows:

For full proposals submitted via FastLane: standard Grant Proposal Guide proposal preparation guidelines apply.
For full proposals submitted via Grants.gov: the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide; A Guide for the Preparation and Submission of NSF Applications via Grants.gov Guidelines applies. (Note: The NSF Grants.gov Application Guide is available on the Grants.gov website and on the NSF website at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=grantsgovguide)

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 15-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after December 26, 2014. The PAPPG is consistent with, and, implements the new Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance) (2 CFR 200). NSF anticipates release of the PAPPG in the Fall of 2014. Please be advised that, depending on the specified due date, the guidelines contained in NSF 15-1 may apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.


The Broadening Participation in Engineering (BPE) Program is a Directorate-wide activity to support the development of a diverse and well-prepared workforce of engineering graduates, particularly those with advanced degrees. The BPE Program supports projects to engage and develop diverse teams that can offer unique perspectives and insights to challenges in engineering research and education.  Throughout this program description, the term underrepresented groups will refer to and include the following: women, persons with disabilities, and ethnic/racial groups which are in the minority in engineering, specifically African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders.

The 2010 Census provides a snapshot of the demographics for United States citizens.  Hispanic Americans are at 16% of our population; African Americans constitute 13.6%; American Indians/Alaskan Natives represent 1.7%; and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are at 0.4%. In aggregate, racial/ethnic minorities make up 31.7% of the US population. According to data collected by the American Society for Engineering Education, in 2012, underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities earned only 12.6% of all bachelor's degrees, 7.9% of all master's degrees and 4.6% of all doctoral degrees in engineering across all 345 degree granting institutions.  The diversity of engineering faculty ranks is significantly smaller, particularly as the rank increases. Underrepresented racial/ethnic minorities constitute 8.6% of all assistant professors, 8.7% of associate professors, and 5.8% of full professors. 

In 2008, approximately 4.9% of all engineering undergraduates were persons with disabilities1.  This demographic earned 1.7% of all engineering doctoral degrees granted in 2010; and, across all science, engineering and health teaching engineering faculty ranks, persons with disabilities make up 8.8%. Yet, persons with disabilities represent 19% of the US population.

For women, who comprise 50.8% of the U.S. population, their inclusion is more significant. Women earned 18.9%, 23.1% and 22.2% of all bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees respectively.  However, they represent only 14.1% of all faculties.

As shown, the status of underrepresented groups within various levels of students and faculty fall far short of their level of representation in the general population.  Despite earlier significant progress, these numbers have changed only marginally in the last decade.  With the clear national focus and emphasis on the need to increase our engineering workforce, it is appropriate to consider how to effect a comprehensive change in diversity in these fields. By seeing problems in different ways, a diverse workforce can encourage innovation and scientific breakthroughs.   The Directorate for Engineering (ENG) recognizes that broadening participation is a systemic issue, with a need for wide-ranging and comprehensive interventions at all levels of the educational system. In alignment with the goals of the Engineering Directorate (ENG) and with other programs in the Engineering Education and Centers Division, the BPE Program recognizes the importance of:

  • the understanding of how a diverse engineering student body, professional workforce, and faculty impact engineering innovation and productivity.
  • the underlying issues affecting the differential participation rates in engineering, particularly those that can be addressed by engineering faculty members.
  • the experiences and interactions that enhance or inhibit underrepresented groups' persistence to degree and career interest in the professoriate.

BPE project activities should be informed by the body of knowledge that surrounds these (and other) important research questions; and in turn add to that knowledge base.

The BPE Program has two synergistic elements:

1.  The BPE Opportunity Track (BPE-OT) establishes mentoring, networking, and other career development opportunities for anyone intending to pursue or already employed as an early career engineering faculty member.  BPE-OT allow them to engage with, learn from, and network with diverse individuals and groups in ways that will demonstrably enhance their long term career success.  This track would include projects for developing graduate student pathways to the doctorate, and through that, to post-doctoral and faculty positions. The track is particularly interested in creating opportunities for groups typically underrepresented in engineering departments.  Funds will be utilized primarily to seed new networking and mentoring opportunities rather than fund ongoing efforts; thus all projects are expected to develop a plan for sustainability independent of further NSF support.

2.  BPE Strategy Track (BPE-ST) projects should explore, develop and implement research-based strategies that promote a more diverse engineering workforce.  The overarching goal is to broaden participation of under-represented groups. These strategies should demonstrate strong evidence of sustainability, scalability, and wide applicability.  A BPE-ST award should also seek to establish measureable success in more than one institution.  Therefore, institutional partnerships are strongly encouraged with the objective being adaptation of the strategy across different institutional types.  Encouragement of the partnerships among disparate institutions lends greater credibility to the adaptability of the strategy.  This development of a networked adaptation community will ensure that the strategies demonstrate promise in dissimilar venues, supporting broader implementation beyond the initial institutional model. 

Given the breadth of targeted groups (undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty) it is expected that all institutions have at least one, if not more, targeted population group where they could propose a strategy for improving diversity.  A successful proposal would therefore provide appropriate benchmark data to support selection of the targeted group with specific and appropriate objectives, demonstrate appropriate knowledge of the relevant literature on underrepresentation, and describe a clear strategy for improving representation.  All funded projects should integrate assessment and evaluation protocols capable of measuring how well the stated objectives are achieved as part of the project management plans.  The effectiveness of the proposed evaluation is one aspect of a project's intellectual merit.  Similarly, there should be evidence of clear, measureable outcomes and consideration of how the strategy will work for disparate institutions.

BPE-ST accepts unsolicited proposals to support research projects that seek to create and study new models and innovations related to the participation and success of groups underrepresented in engineering undergraduate or graduate education, postdoctoral training, and academic engineering careers.  The track is seeking larger scale investigations with a broad, systemic scope capable of initiating and sustaining substantial improvements in diversity.  Proposals are sought from all eligible organizational types including educational institutions and organizations as well as professional and diversity organizations that seek to broaden participation. Competitive proposals should clearly demonstrate the ability to adapt the project to disparate institutions, facilitating the creation of a networked adaptation community.

Before submitting a proposal to either Track 1 or Track 2 of the BPE program, potential PIs are strongly encouraged to speak to a cognizant program officer to obtain guidance as to whether the ideas represented in the proposal align with the strategic goals of the Broadening Participation in Engineering program.  It is strongly recommended that proposals be submitted to the Broadening Participation program, specifying the track of interest, no later than May 1, 2014

1Data on persons with disabilities is from the NSF Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering data tables, Tables 2-7, 7-6, and 9-22.


Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide, January 2013 (NSF 13-001)


Engineering Workforce Development

What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)

Map of Recent Awards Made Through This Program


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