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Communications of the ACM

Broadening participation

The Need For Research in Broadening Participation

many hands holding globe

Credit: Clemson University

Underrepresentation in computing is a global problem, marked by a disturbing lack of access to computing resources and education among people underrepresented by race, ethnicity, gender, income, disability, and sexual-orientation status. It is urgent that we address this divide between those with and without the knowledge to create computational artifacts or even basic functional literacy. Important alliances for broadening participation (BP) are catalyzing efforts to engage more people in computing, but they are not enough. We need solid research as well.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded eight current Broadening Participation in Computing Alliances to increase the diversity of computing students in the U.S. These alliances have built networks among diverse computing students and professionals while building capacity to improve the culture of computing. The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT; has mobilized over 600 organizations to recruit, retain, and advance women in computing. The Computing Alliance for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (CAHSI; has provided mentoring and effective educational practices like peer-led team learning and the Affinity Research Group model to integrate undergraduates into research teams. The Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing; promotes inclusive practices and builds community for students with disabilities. The Institute for African American Mentoring in Computer Sciences (IAAMCS; encourages undergraduate students in research, K–12 outreach, and participation in seminars and the Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing ( Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP; supports state-level computing education reforms. Into the Loop ( works to integrate rigorous computing courses in Los Angeles Unified School District high schools. The Computing Research Association-Women (CRA-W; and the Coalition to Diversity Computing (CDC; support Sustainable Diversity in the Computing Research Pipeline (, and the Data Buddies project across programs. The STARS Computing Corps ( develops university and student leaders to serve local communities through regional partnerships and an annual STARS Celebration conference.


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