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
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.