FAQ About Departmental BPC Plans
This FAQ focuses on Departmental BPC Plans. You may also wish to refer to the Project BPC Plan FAQs from NSF.
1. What is the difference between a Departmental BPC Plan and a Project BPC Plan?
A Departmental BPC plan is a 2 page document that will include a description of what an entire Department has committed to do to address the underrepresentation of certain groups. These plans should include statistics that show the need to focus on intended population(s), goal(s) to be achieved, activities to address the stated goals, who will oversee the activities, how their impact will be measured, and who will be responsible for overseeing the progress of the plan. Although the Departmental Plan is limited to 2 pages, departments can create an internal document with greater detail about the Plan implementation.
A Project Plan will be smaller in scope; it will describe the specific activities that a Project PI (or group of PIs) will plan to carry out. It may or may not build on the Departmental Plan. A Departmental Plan can be used by PIs as a framework for a Project BPC Plan, providing a menu of activities from which the PI can select a small subset. For answers to questions that span Departmental and Project BPC Plans, such as what is the purpose of BPC activities, which groups are the intended population, comparing BPC with Broader Impacts, BPC Plan review process and budgeting, NSF has prepared an FAQ document.
Just as research projects evolve, we anticipate that your Project Plan BPC activities will evolve over time – and you should report those changes in your annual report. Your Departmental BPC Plan is a dynamic plan that can be updated over time as your Departmental BPC activities change.
2. My department is just getting started in organizing its BPC efforts. How might we decide on the activities to include in our Departmental BPC Plan?
A resource portal BPCnet.org has been created to provide information to assist Departments and PIs in developing BPC plans. Impactful BPC plans address a problem that is relevant to the context of the proposing institution. A checklist is available to guide your efforts in developing a Departmental BPC Plan.
If many of your faculty have not been previously involved in BPC efforts, it is valuable to include BPC education as part of the Departmental Plan. You may wish to include ongoing programs and organizations within your department or at your university that would facilitate reaching out to your intended populations. Your department may also wish to partner with existing BPC programs, rather than design new activities, making connections through BPCnet.org. You might also find it helpful to look at departmental plans for other institutions, which can also be found at BPCnet.org.
Using a Departmental Plan
3. Will NSF approve my institution’s departmental plan so that future proposals can just use it?
No. Instead, once department leadership has signed off on the plan, departments may submit their Departmental BPC Plan to BPCnet.org for review by a team of experts. Once the plan includes the required and recommended components from the provided community checklist for Departmental BPC Plans, the plan can be posted on BPCnet.org. A link to it can be provided within Project BPC Plans from PIs in that department, submitted as part of a proposal.
4. How does a PI use the departmental plan in their proposal?
A departmental plan provides a tool to ease the effort for Project PIs in developing and executing impactful BPC plans. It is likely to include a number of different activities that faculty might implement. It is probably unrealistic and undesirable for an individual PI to participate in all of these activities. A checklist is available to identify the components of a Departmental BPC Plan. Then, the PI selects one or more activities, describes these in more detail and also how the PI will personally contribute to the activity. (See example departmental plans on BPCnet.org.)
PIs may duplicate text from their Departmental BPC Plan and can link to their Departmental BPC Plan. In the case of collaborative proposals, the BPC Plan submitted to the NSF may link to multiple Departmental BPC Plans.
5. How much detail should be provided about each activity in the Departmental BPC Plan?
The lengthiest portion of the BPC plans will likely be the description of the different BPC activities from which Project PIs can select. Therefore, we suggest that departmental plans only provide a summary list of the department’s BPC activities. A department can employ an internal document with detailed descriptions of all of the activities, which can be longer. In addition, references and links can be included to provide additional information, such as, for example, websites associated with some or all of the activities.
6. What is the best way to get feedback on a BPC plan before submitting a proposal?
For feedback on your Project BPC Plan or Departmental BPC Plan, you can schedule a time with a BPC Plan Consultant to review the current version of your plan. Visit this page to make an appointment.
7. My university is a Minority-Serving Institution. Does my BPC Plan need to focus on a different group of underrepresented students than the ones that are common at my institution?
No, a BPC program that works with underrepresented students at your institution or your community would be good. Your plan must still clearly explain how your BPC Plan is designed to increase participation of such students in computing, and it should also include a justification (i.e., with national data) about why it is important to increase the representation of that group, even if they are not underrepresented at your institution. Departmental plans should include demographic data for students at not only the institution but also the department level as the student demographics in the CS department may be quite different.
8. Where can I find my institution’s demographic data to be used in the Context description?
BPCnet provides a tool to download disaggregated data for computing degree recipients at your institution and K-12 enrollment, along with state and national data for additional context. These data can be included in your BPC Plan. https://bpcnet.org/statistics.
Universities maintain institutional data, and it is often publicly available. If you do not know where to find such data, ask your department leadership or the Office of the Vice President for Research.
9. The guidelines indicate that a departmental plan should have concrete and measurable goals. Is this like a quota for participation of underrepresented groups?
No, there is no expectation of quotas. Rather, the plan should set concrete goals for how its activities will broaden participation in computing and then measure progress towards those goals every year. By setting goals and measuring progress towards those goals, departments can monitor how successful their activities are, and refine those activities that are not having the expected impact or introduce and/or retire activities as departmental needs change.
10. Few of my colleagues are engaged in BPC activities. Is it still productive to develop a Departmental BPC plan?
Most faculty are motivated to create a more inclusive environment at their institution, but often do not know what they should do to engage in BPC activities. Further, those faculty that are already actively involved in BPC efforts will likely welcome support from other faculty to strengthen their activities. The Departmental BPC Plan provides an organizational vehicle for aligning people and building momentum in broadening the field. You may also be able to connect with people outside your department with BPC expertise to help in creating your plan. It is important to engage a cross-section of faculty in developing the departmental plan to encourage their support (for suggestions, see https://www.ncwit.org/resources/customcatalog/gain-local-support-colleagues.) To be posted on BPCnet.org, a departmental plan will need to be approved by department leadership.