From NSF site: "Scientific progress comes in all shapes and sizes. Researchers peer at the microscopic gears of genomes, scan the heavens for clues of our origins. They unearth wind-weathered fossils, labor over complex circuitry, guide students through the maze of learning. Disparate fields, researchers and methods united by one thing: potential. Every NSF grant has the potential to not only advance knowledge, but benefit society -- what we call broader impacts."
Basic tenets: Building STEM talent ; Innovating for the future ; Improving our society ; Reaching beyond borders ; Engaging a wider audience.
While a definition and criteria have originated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and its funding/grant requirements, the larger vision of demonstrating the impact and societal benefit of one's research and engaging with a larger, diverse audience for that information has entered the discourse of other funding agencies (particularly those connected to federal, public monies–access, accountability, transparency).