NSF STAR Alliance and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research

STAR Alliance is one of three categories of awards under the NSF Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program. Janice Cuny, BPC program director, described the types of alliances that are enabled by the STAR Alliance projects. She highlighted the fact that the projects have created partnerships across institutional types that aim to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in the computing disciplines. They also have enhanced the research and educational capacity at the research institutions and ERI members of the alliance. The Alliances stimulate curricular reform, research experiences for undergraduates, and peer team research for partnering institutions. However, in order to compete successfully for a grant award, the proposers must have a strong organization and management plan.

Denise Barnes of the Office of Integrative Activities presented information about the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). EPSCoR funds are dedicated to the advancement of research and education in jurisdictions receiving lesser amounts of NSF research funding. The program currently encompasses 25 states as well as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Because the program is congressionally mandated across a number of agencies, the NSF presentation was but one example of the types of assistance offered under the program. EPSCoR offers research infrastructure improvement grants (up to $3 million annually), joint support of proposals submitted through other NSF channels, and a variety of outreach and workshop events to familiarize EPSCoR researchers with NSF programs, priorities, and policies.

THE FUNDING MODELS

The Mentor-Protégé, EARDA, STAR Alliance, and EPSCoR programs are but four examples of federal resources available to ERIs wishing to enhance their research capacity and infrastructure. But these four examples also illustrate a more general fact: the resources available to ERIs are highly targeted to specific populations, regions, or entities.

Unfortunately, the lack of research infrastructure is a universal condition of many ERIs. While scientific equipment may be obtained by a sole researcher with a terrific grant proposal and luck on his or her side, the systemic upgrading of facilities and processes remains a universal problem without universal support. The fact that capacity-building programs, particularly at the federal level, are not correspondingly universal makes them difficult even to locate. Only three of the workshop attendees indicated they had heard of the Army or NIH programs. The most powerful



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