2
Program Structure and Operation

“The [EPSCoR] program has been a huge success—investments have generated growth in state economies, attracted students into STEM fields, and created a broader base of research expertise available to the agencies to meet their missions.”

Testimony, Christopher M. Lawson, Executive Director, Alabama EPSCoR, Director of Graduate Research Scholars Program and Professor of Physics, University of Alabama at Birmingham, submitted to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, March 22, 2012.

“Our nation’s primary source of both new knowledge and graduates with advanced skills is our research universities.”

Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012), p. 1.

Despite largely shared goals, the federal agencies that operate the programs of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) have established diverse administrative frameworks for achieving their directives.18 Agencies differ not only in terms of EPSCoR budgets (ranging from $9 million at the Department of Energy [DOE] to $276 million at the National Institutes of Health [NIH] in fiscal year [FY] 2012) but also in terms of eligibility criteria, proposal review processes, award duration, and the level and intensity of state engagement. The National Science Foundation (NSF), EPSCoR’s originating

_________________________

18 Details for each agency can be found in Appendix A.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 25
2 Program Structure and Operation “The [EPSCoR] program has been a huge success—investments have generated growth in state economies, attracted students into STEM fields, and created a broader base of research expertise available to the agencies to meet their missions.” Testimony, Christopher M. Lawson, Executive Director, Alabama EPSCoR, Director of Graduate Research Scholars Program and Professor of Physics, University of Alabama at Birmingham, submitted to the House Committee on Appropriations
 Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, March 22, 2012. “Our nation’s primary source of both new knowledge and graduates with advanced skills is our research universities.” Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012), p. 1. Despite largely shared goals, the federal agencies that operate the programs of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) have established diverse administrative frameworks for achieving their directives. 18 Agencies differ not only in terms of EPSCoR budgets (ranging from $9 million at the Department of Energy [DOE] to $276 million at the National Institutes of Health [NIH] in fiscal year [FY] 2012) but also in terms of eligibility criteria, proposal review processes, award duration, and the level and intensity of state engagement. The National Science Foundation (NSF), EPSCoR’s originating 18 Details for each agency can be found in Appendix A. 25

OCR for page 25
26 THE EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM TO STIMULATE COMPETITIVE RESEARCH agency, continues to drive eligibility requirements for most EPSCoR programs and has legislative authority over the EPSCoR Interagency Coordinating Committee.19 NIH, which operates the EPSCoR-like Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program, currently oversees the largest budget of any EPSCoR program. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative conducts an EPSCoR-like program, the Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement program, which functions much differently than other EPSCoR programs. The remaining EPSCoR initiatives—National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) EPSCoR and DOE EPSCoR— operate at mission-driven agencies and control relatively small budgets (see Table 2-1).20 The committee decided to focus most of its attention on the NSF and NIH programs because they have the broadest roles in supporting the U.S. research enterprise and account for more than 85 percent of the current EPSCoR spending AGENCY CONTRASTS Program Goals NSF’s funding mandate stretches across the spectrum of the scientific community’s research interests—from anthropology to mathematics to zoology—as well as scientific policy concerns—from building scientific capacity to improving science education to fostering science-based economic development and innovation. NSF’s mandate, in its broadest sense, is national scientific capacity building to directly advance innovation and discovery. This is reflected in the structure of its EPSCoR program (see Box 2-1). In contrast, the EPSCoR strategy developed at NIH in part reflects the agency’s concentration on biomedical research. In a sense, NIH is a mission- oriented agency that tailors its IDeA program to its overall research agenda. The NIH IDeA program, therefore, tends to emphasize basic and translational research and focuses less on the broader activities that have come to characterize NSF EPSCoR in more recent years. 19 Under the direction of Congress, in FY 1993 the federal agencies participating in EPSCoR agreed to form the EPSCoR Interagency Coordinating Committee (EICC). The purpose of the committee was “to produce…a plan to integrate all EPSCoR programs into a single unified effort to maximize the taxpayers’ investment in this effort.” See www.nsf.gov/od/oia/program/espscor/ehr_espscor_eicc.jsp. The committee did not find any evidence that the EICC was playing a strong role in coordinating activities. The agencies used it primarily to inform one another of their activities. 20 DOD’s DEPSCoR program ended in 2009. A summary of the program may be found in Appendix A. EPA’s EPSCoR program was discontinued in 2006. The committee made an exhaustive effort to learn more about the rationale for the DOD and EPA decisions to cancel their EPSCoR programs, but neither agency was able to provide the information.

OCR for page 25
Table 2-1. Overview of EPSCoR and EPSCoR-like Program Properties and Policies FY 2012 Program 2012 Eligibility State Matching Award Agency Funding Pool Name Budget Threshold Committee Funds Period <0.75% of NSF Independent; funds, rolling 3-yr Up to 5 NSF EPSCoR $150.9M Required Required congressionally average years legislated Fixed in 2006, Independent; Not Up to 15 NIH IDeA $276.5M proposal success rate Not used congressionally required years below 20% legislated Endorsement Independent; Not Up to 4 DOE EPSCoR $8.5M NSF requirement letters congressionally required years required legislated Up to 3 Independent; years (2- NASA EPSCoR $18.3M NSF requirement Not required Required congressionally year legislated renewal) <38th percentile of USDA funding Not 10% of AFRI Up to 2 USDA FASE $26.4M Not used recipients required budget years Program NSF requirement and Not required DOD DEPSCoR $0M Required discontinued in < 1.2% DOD funding after FY 2009 FY 2010 [SOURCES: NSF Survey of Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions (WebCASPAR); Direct communications with program managers at agency EPSCoR offices ; DEPSCoR – Assessment of the Defense Experimental Program To Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR): Final Report Volume II—Supporting Material, Institute for Defense Analyses, October 2008 (FY 1995–FY 2008), Robin Staffin’s presentation at third meeting.]

OCR for page 25
PROGRAM STRUCTURE AND OPERATION 28 Box 2-1 NSF EPSCoR’s Current Major Objectives The major objectives of NSF EPSCoR, as articulated by NSF, are to: Catalyze key research themes and related activities within and among EPSCoR states and jurisdictions for the purposes of empowering knowledge generation, dissemination, and application. Activate effective state, jurisdictional, and regional collaboration among academic, government, and private -sector stakeholders to advance scientific research, promote innovation, and provide multiple benefits. Broaden participation in science and engineering by institutions, organizations, and people within and among EPSCoR jurisdictions. Use EPSCoR for development, implementation, and evaluation of future programmatic experiments to motivate positive change and progress. SOURCE: www.nsf.gov/od/oia/programs/epscor/about.jsp. NIH defines its IDeA program largely as an effort to strengthen research capabilities by building physical infrastructure, hiring faculty, and providing fellowships and research grants to postdoctoral students and junior faculty. In effect, the NIH IDeA casts its program’s goals onto a much more narrowly confined template than NSF EPSCoR (see Box 2-2).21 NIH’s administrative framework, however, does not mean that either federal or state program officials ignore the broader social and economic benefits that could potentially be derived from advances and applications of the biomedical research conducted by IDeA-supported researchers and research institutions. The direct ties between biomedical research and public health inherent in the research pursued by NIH IDeA grant recipients often provide an advantage in efforts to solicit public and political support. Due to the diverse subject matter of the research it funds, similar public support is sometimes more 21 NIH IDeA laboratory funding includes investments in faculty development and recruitment, equipment, facilities renovation, postdoctoral studies and development, bioinformation training, release time, and training for grant management. See presentation by W. Frederick Taylor, Program Director for the Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, 1st NAS EPSCoR Evaluation Committee Meeting, Washington, DC, May 24–25, 2012.

OCR for page 25
PROGRAM STRUCTURE AND OPERATION 29 difficult for NSF EPSCoR grant recipients to generate and sustain—although state governing committees seek to tie these research efforts to societal needs. 22 Box 2-2 NIH IDeA Major Objectives (2013) Broad descriptions of the NIH IDeA program are more difficult to find than for NSF EPSCoR. More often than not, NIH IDeA notes that its objectives are to build capacity and competitiveness among institutions in eligible states and jurisdictions for the purpose of acquiring NIH funds. However, in announcing its 5-year Institutional Networks of Biological Research Excellence (INBRE) awards, NIH outlined the following IDeA broad objectives: Build and strengthen local and partner institutions’ biomedical research expertise and infrastructure. Support faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students through career development and training in research in partnering institutions. Increase research opportunities for undergraduate students and create a pipeline for undergraduate students to continue in health research careers within IDeA states. Provide outreach activities to students at undergraduate institutions, community colleges, and tribal colleges participating in the state’s network. Enhance science and technology of the state’s workforce. SOURCE: www.nih.gov/news/health/oct2009/ncrr. Eligibility and Funding Each participating federal agency has instituted EPSCoR eligibility criteria based on previous state success in acquiring federal funding. At NSF, eligible states can receive no more than 0.75 percent of total NSF research funds, based on a rolling 3-year average, as defined and revised in the 2010 America COMPETES Act. NASA, DOE, and the DOD have each adopted NSF’s criterion.23 22 Issues that serve as the focal points of the NSF EPSCoR research program have evolved over time and varied from state to state. However, the current roster of key issues includes biodiversity, cyberinfrastructure, climate change, computational science, energy, rural health, defense, ecology, homeland security, and water. 23 Details for each agency can be found in Appendix A.

OCR for page 25
30 THE EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM TO STIMULATE COMPETITIVE RESEARCH Until FY 2008, NIH eligibility was based on a 3-year rolling average of proposal success rates. Under this system, all states with success rates of less than 20 percent were eligible to participate in the program. However, NIH has suspended all updates on possible changes in eligibility due to a nationwide decline in proposal success rates. In 2012, 46 states and territories—including California, Texas, and New York—were unable to convert more than 20 percent of their proposals into NIH awards.24 NIH has proposed a new eligibility requirement allowing states that fall below the median in NIH research funding to participate in the program. The proposal is currently awaiting congressional approval. USDA combines NSF’s and its own unique eligibility criteria when considering grant proposals. Under this arrangement, all researchers (regardless of the state in which they reside) compete directly for funds. Meritorious but unsuccessful proposals (due to budget constraints) from states below the 38th percentile in total USDA research funding have access to a (protected) secondary funding pool based on the ranking of their proposal and the availability of funds. Once eligibility has been determined, institutions in eligible states compete against one another in an open and meritorious review process. The funds for which they compete, however, are “sheltered” and thus not available to non-EPSCoR states. Proposal Submission The NSF EPSCoR and NIH IDeA proposal submission and review processes reflect each agency’s effort to achieve both program and agency goals.25 For example, NSF’s requirements that participating states create EPSCoR governing committees, prepare strategic plans for science and technology, and identify nonfederal matching funds are designed to build scientific capacity and foster collaboration among universities, state and local governments, and the private sector. Through NSF EPSCoR, competing institutions are encouraged to cooperate in preparing and implementing project proposals. Because each governing committee may submit just a single application for NSF’s Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 1 grants, the proposal process encourages strong collaboration among its participants and a sense of shared ownership as the project moves ahead. These factors can have a lasting impact on scientific capacity in the state.26 As Michael Khonsari, NSF EPSCoR Project Director and Associate Commissioner for Sponsored Programs Research and Development in Louisiana, observes: “What started out as a requirement in EPSCoR is now 24 Communication with Fred Taylor, Program Director, Capacity Building Branch, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health. 25 Details for all agencies can be found in Appendix A. 26 Denise M. Barnes, Acting Head, NSF EPSCoR, presentation at the NAS EPSCoR Evaluation Committee, Washington, DC, May 24, 2012.

OCR for page 25
PROGRAM STRUCTURE AND OPERATION 31 regarded as a normal course of operations. We collaborate because it increases our chances of securing research funding.”27 EPSCoR governing committees also seek to foster opportunities for additional collaboration between federal agencies and state officials. NIH IDeA administrators sometimes work closely with NSF through state governing committees. Unlike NSF, however, IDeA accepts proposals only directly from researchers and not from state governing committees. Proposals are not vetted by the state governing committees before their submission to the NIH, although for the Institutional Network of Biological Research Excellence program, NIH ultimately chooses just one research proposal from each state.28 Unlike NSF, moreover, NIH does not require matching funds from the state to cover a portion of the grant.29 Because NSF EPSCoR proposals address broader state strategies for capacity enhancement, NSF creates review committees with a diversity of expertise. In contrast, because NIH COBRE proposals focus more tightly on a specific research project, NIH chooses reviewers with directly related expertise as it would for any subject-specific research proposal. Over time, NSF EPSCoR has expanded the scope of its funding activities from support for individual scientists to support for scientific institutions. Since the late 1990s, it has also pursued a co-funding strategy that combines NSF EPSCoR funds with funds from other NSF divisions to support worthy proposals that may otherwise not be awarded a grant due to insufficient funds.30 In theory, if institutions are able to compete successfully for funds from NSF’s general research programs (even under the favorable conditions provided by the co-funding arrangement), then at some point the institutions should be able to compete on their own without any of the shelter provided by EPSCoR for general research funds. Yet, as a practical matter, the effort has yet to fulfill its promise as a “half-way house” between EPSCoR and non-EPSCoR status. No state has yet to permanently graduate from EPSCoR, which means that all institutions within EPSCoR states remain eligible for the program.31 27 Michael Khonsari NSF EPSCoR Project Director and Associate Commissioner for Sponsored Programs Research and Development in Louisiana, correspondence sent to the NAS Evaluation Committee, October 2012. 28 The NIH Institutional Network of Biological Research Excellence (INBRE) program, like the NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Development (RII Track I and II) program, has only one grant project operating in each state at a time. With the NIH Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program, however, there can be more than one grant recipient operating at the same time. 29 Institutional Development Award Program (IDeA), NIH Guide, vol. 22, no. 44, Dec. 10, 1993. 30 Ibid. Also W. Henry Lambright, “Building State Science: The EPSCoR Experience,” in J. Scott Hauger and Celia McEnaney, eds., Strategies for Competitiveness in Academic Research (Washington, DC: AAAS, (Washington, DC: AAAS, http://www.aaas.org/spp/rcp/policy/strategies_book.shtml, 2000). 31 In April 2006, Tennessee announced that it would “begin the process of successfully transitioning out of the NSF EPSCoR program.” State officials anticipated that the “exit” process would take 3

OCR for page 25
32 THE EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM TO STIMULATE COMPETITIVE RESEARCH Most NSF EPSCoR research projects are funded for 5 years or less.32 In general, no additional funds are made available after this period, but states can seek support for new projects. Conversely, NIH IDeA in its Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence program relies on a long-term, step-funding strategy for building sustainable research capacity. Successful applicants receive funding for up to 15 years, with continued funding eligibility over this period subject to the outcome of periodic program reviews. Conducted by experts in the field of study, these reviews take place once every 5 years. At the conclusion of a 15-year period, participating institutions are expected to have sufficient research capacity (and a reputation for scientific excellence) that will enable them to successfully compete for research funds from NIH’s institutes and centers as well as from other federal, state, and private funding sources. Both the NSF and NIH programs contain several successful elements. In particular, NSF’s use of state committees to encourage both state- and region- wide coordination of education and infrastructure efforts and NIH’s commitment to develop specific areas of research capacity via a stepped program lasting 15 years deserve recognition. In developing its recommendations, the committee built its proposal on agency initiatives that had demonstrated their effectiveness. STATE BY STATE EPSCoR states vary widely in demographic, economic, and scientific characteristics. Such diversity plays an important role in determining capacities and shaping strategies for science-based economic growth.33 In Wyoming, for example, there is just 1 university that grants graduate degrees; in Tennessee, there are 31. Rhode Island is home to Brown University, one of the nation’s elite private universities; in contrast, 11 EPSCoR states do not have a single research university ranked in the top 100 in the United States.34 Four EPSCoR states— Idaho, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Tennessee—are home to DOE’s national laboratories, which are the nation’s largest supporters of research in the years. However, Tennessee still remains in the program. More recent data indicate that Tennessee is poised to graduate from the program in 2013, as are Iowa and Utah. See U.S. National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, prepared by Christine Mathews, February 28, 2012). Also see data presented at the 4th EPSCoR Evaluation Committee, Washington, DC, March 27–28, 2013. 32 There are occasions, when NSF RII Track 1 projects have been funded in a series of phases, each 5 years in length. But it is not clear how closely one phase is connected to the next, especially in terms of the research agenda and the program’s goal of building sustainable capacity in particular fields of research. See profile in Appendix B, “Science in Place: Alaska’s EPSCoR and IDeA Program.” 33 For selected in-depth state profile, see Appendix B. 34 Richard-Duane Chambers, presentation, NAS 3rd EPSCoR Evaluation Committee, Washington, DC, December 10, 2012.

OCR for page 25
PROGRAM STRUCTURE AND OPERATION 33 35 physical sciences . States with national laboratories often have large nonprofit organizations, such as Oak Ridge Associated Universities and the New Mexico Consortium, that are designed to advance university research through close coordination with their national laboratories. Alabama is home to the NASA Marshall Space Center. The committee recognized from the outset that it would have neither the time nor the resources to evaluate the states individually. 36 Instead, it decided to identify a few critical factors that are relevant to all state-level operations. The state-to-state disparities make it difficult to devise a single national strategy or program that is capable of addressing each EPSCoR-eligible state’s distinctive needs and aspirations. NSF EPSCoR required the creation of state governing committees, in part, to help address this challenge. Each state governing committee seeks to meld EPSCoR research grant proposals to the state’s strategic science and technology and higher education plans. To directly probe the working structure of the various state governing committees, the committee gathered information directly from the state governing committees of the NSF EPSCoR–eligible states. The committee contacted 29 states eligible for NSF EPSCoR in FY 2012 and received responses from 23. The committee asked for only publicly available, factual information. The questions can be found in Box 2-3. Due to the diversity in the states and the mechanisms that have been set up, general statements concerning the structure and responsibilities of the state governing committees are difficult to make. However, some common themes arose. Committee Membership Governing committee membership ranges from 8 individuals in North Dakota to 23 individuals in South Dakota. Almost all committees have state government representation, usually from the governor’s office but also from both houses and/or both parties in the state legislature. High-level officials, such as provosts or vice presidents for research, often serve as representatives from the universities. Some states also encourage faculty representation. Many reserve a certain number of seats for representatives from industry. Almost all committees have fixed terms—normally 3–4 years—with staggered start dates to ensure some continuity. A few states have term limits or limit the amount of time that an individual can serve. Training for members is mostly informal. Many states now give new member copies of the state’s science and technology (S&T) plan as well as relevant EPSCoR program information. 35 See http://science.energy.gov. 36 For selected in-depth state profile, see Appendix B.

OCR for page 25
34 THE EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM TO STIMULATE COMPETITIVE RESEARCH Box 2-3 State Governing Committee Questionnaire How are committee-members selected, introduced, and trained? What kinds of expertise does the membership have? How frequently does the committee membership and leadership change? What are the committee’s primary EPSCoR-related responsibilities and goals and how have these responsibilities and goals evolved over time? Does the state committee have other responsibilities beyond EPSCoR? For instance, does the committee give input to statewide strategies for science and technology or educational planning? What metrics are used to determine program success? For example, do these metrics focus on the number of STEM graduates, faculty hires, migration of knowledge-based workers into and out of the state, release time policies, the creation or enhancement of sponsored research offices, and/or increased collaboration? EPSCoR-related Goals and Functions The committee’s primary function and goal are oversight and maintenance of the state’s EPSCoR program. Other key responsibilities include acting as a liaison between NSF and the state, selection of proposals for submission to EPSCoR, coordination between the EPSCoR programs, and promotion of science competitiveness. Overall, respondents did not discuss the evolution of these roles over time. External Role of the Committee Virtually all members of state EPSCoR committees have additional responsibilities independent of their positions on EPSCoR committees. Most are related to science, engineering, competitiveness, and/or enhancing the state’s workforce. Many committee members mentioned contributing to the state’s S&T plan—either individually or collectively. Some state committees double as the board for higher education or as subcommittees on these boards. Metrics While a few state committees outlined concrete goals with due dates and quantifiable metrics for measuring success, most provided a standard list of general output measures. For example (derived from Delaware’s list): Acquiring additional extramural funding.

OCR for page 25
PROGRAM STRUCTURE AND OPERATION 35 Expanding the state’s contributions to the scientific community (through a greater number of publications, presentations, honors, awards, and so on). Increasing the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics graduates. Enhancing the diversity of students and faculty. Raising the number and quality of faculty hires. Stimulating economic development (jobs, patents, new technology, and so on). Creating new research institutes. Strengthening collaboration and launching new interdisciplinary research and education programs. Developing state-of-the-art infrastructure (for example, by improving laboratory equipment and classroom facilities). Nearly every respondent supplied a detailed list of the committee’s activities and accomplishments. Only a small number of respondents, however, provided information about how these measures had been collected, where that information was being stored, or how it was being used. One state even mentioned that information was gathered “by word of mouth.” The committee was convinced that the states had made a conscientious effort to enhance research activities, and received anecdotal evidence pointing to their success. However, it questioned whether there were comparable data to determine which actions are most effective or which programs most successful.

OCR for page 25