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West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission

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EPSCoR 2030 – A report to the National Science Foundation

EPSCoR 2030 – A Report to the National Science Foundation (pdf)

Executive Summary:

A panel of nationally recognized scientists and engineers met in January 2012 at the behest of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to examine the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) in terms of its relevance to the national research agenda. The two-day workshop produced observations about the value of the NSF program and recommended
programmatic changes to be made both by NSF and by the EPSCoR states that can enhance EPSCoR’s effectiveness.

  • EPSCoR states’ universities and colleges and their research faculty play a key role in u.S. economic competiveness. 
  • The NSF EPSCoR program has been highly successful in building research competitiveness. However, much more needs to be done to secure the program’s future success. 
  • The vast majority of NSF’s S&T investment goes to a small number of non-EPSCoR states and institutions.
  • NSF EPSCoR needs to become more adaptive in order to improve strategic planning and to take advantage of new collaborative research opportunities in areas across states where EPSCoR has built strength relevant to S&T opportunities emerging at the national and international levels.
  • The 31 EPSCoR jurisdictions in this unique federal-state partnership offer NSF an incredible “test bed” for its new initiatives. 
  • EPSCoR is a unique program at NSF. It is not a research program in and of itself, but a capacity building program that was designed to have an impact on research infrastructure across institutions and states.

This report summarizes background, issues, consensus opinions and a series of five major recommendations that
grew out of the workshop. Consensus opinions include:

  • EPSCoR research universities are a vital resource that can and must be employed as the United States tackles S&T issues impacting the ability of the country to compete in high-tech global markets. 
  • There are challenges where EPSCoR institutions have the experience that can help NSF and the nation including energy, climate variation, health, defense and homeland security and cyberinfrastructure.
  • While the NSF EPSCoR investment has fueled incredible advancements in building research infrastructure, both NSF and the EPSCoR states need to better articulate the need for and achievementsof the NSF (and federal-wide) EPSCoR and IDeA efforts.
  • One of EPSCoR’s strengths is that state committees, universities and faculty are committed to scientific and engineering excellence.
  • EPSCoR’s current award mechanisms could be modified to better reflect new NSF priorities, reduce the emphasis on funding multiple activities with a single award, focus funding on achieving critical needs in science and infrastructure and allow groups of EPSCoR researchers to better pool the expertise which EPSCoR already has developed in areas like water, energy, and cyberinfrastructure.

Recommendations include:

  • Since NSF EPSCoR research is critical to the nation’s science and technology policy, NSF must continue to expand its EPSCoR funding and overall support in order to guarantee this program’s relevance.
  • NSF EPSCoR should return to its original focus of increasing research capacity.
  • NSF should use EPSCoR states and their research institutions as a test bed for new agency initiatives taking advantage of their size, diversity and nimble structures.
  • NSF and EPSCoR institutions must act now to develop a robust cyberinfrastructure to ensure that faculties are, and remain, competitive.
  • The “EPSCoR success story” must be better told in the national interest.

These major recommendations are broken down into more detailed sub-recommendations, strategies, programmatic
and policy actions in the body of this document.

EPSCoR 2030 – A Report to the National Science Foundation (pdf)