PDF _ RL30930 - U.S. National Science Foundation: Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCor
7-Aug-2008; Christine M. Matthews; 16 p.

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Abstract: The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) was authorized by Congress in 1978, partly in response to concerns in Congress and the concerns of some in academia and the scientific community about the geographic distribution of federal research and development (R&D) funds. It was argued that there was a concentration of federal R&D funds in large and wealthy states and universities, and that the continuation of such funding patterns might ensure a dichotomy between the “haves” and “havenots.”

EPSCoR began in 1979 with five states and funding of approximately $1.0 million. Currently, EPSCoR operates in 25 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the NSF has invested approximately $920.0 million in EPSCoR programs and activities. When established, it operated solely in the NSF. EPSCoR was expanded in the mid 1980s and early 1990s; by 1998, seven other agencies had established EPSCoR or EPSCoR-like programs.

EPSCoR is a university-oriented program, with the goal of identifying, developing, and utilizing the academic science and technology resources in a state that will lead to increased R&D competitiveness. The program is a partnership between NSF and a state to improve the R&D competitiveness through the state’s academic science and technology (S&T) infrastructure. Eventually, it is hoped that those states receiving limited federal support would improve their ability to compete successfully for federal and private sector funds through the regular grant system.

Some have questioned the length of time states should receive EPSCoR support. It continues to be called an experimental program after 28 years, and observers have noted that no state has yet to graduate, or leave the program. In August 2005, the NSF’s Committee of Visitors (COV) released a review of the EPSCoR program for the period FY2000 through FY2004. One of the issues in the review was centered on determining when states would become independent of EPSCoR resources. The COV acknowledged that graduation/progression from the EPSCoR program is a “challenging” issue and it has become necessary to revisit what it means to graduate from the program.

On March 2, 2007, Senator Rockefeller introduced S. 753, EPSCoR Research and Competitiveness Act of 2007. The bill authorizes appropriations for FY2009- FY2012. S. 753 would require the NSF Director to obligate not less than 20% of the EPSCoR budget on co-funding projects that are ranked in the top 20% of all submitted grant proposals.

On June 30, 2008, the President signed into law the Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2008 ( P.L. 110-252, H.R. 2642). The act provides an additional $62.5 million for the NSF in FY2008. Report language directs that $5.0 million of the supplemental be available solely for EPSCoR activities. This report will be updated periodically.

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Topics: General Interest, Federal Agencies, Legislative

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