these strategies for 5 years. The expectation was that when the funding came to an end, these states would be capable of competing successfully for research funding from NSF’s general merit-based grant pool. Instead, those states are still receiving EPSCoR funds, and the program has expanded to include many more states.
NSF EPSCoR’s annual budget now stands at roughly $150 million, and eligibility for the program has spread across 32 jurisdictions, including 29 states and 3 territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands). In addition, NIH, DOE, USDA, and NASA together provide approximately $325 million in funding per year. The NIH and USDA have different eligibility criteria, and a slightly different group of states participate in these programs. The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also operated programs for several years, but these agencies have terminated funding.
In retrospect, the initial NSF EPSCoR goal seems politically astute but unrealistic. Several million dollars of funding and 5 years of effort were clearly not going to transform a state’s research capacity or make it competitive with other states that had invested and/or received tens of millions of dollars over decades to build their research capacities. Indeed, EPSCoR has been in operation for more than 30 years and, over this period, the program has invested several billion dollars in capacity-building activities, yet the same 10 states that received the highest level of research funding in 1977 still top the list. Moreover, more than half of all states now receive EPSCoR funds, and no state that has participated in the program has permanently “graduated” from it. Analysis also shows EPSCoR-eligible states received roughly the same percentage of total federal research funding in 2012 that they had received in 1979 (see Figure S-1).
EPSCoR programs and EPSCoR states have devoted considerable time and resources to building research capacity. Yet, the states that have been the nation’s traditional leaders have also invested in their research capacity—deriving considerable funds from both public and private sources. As a result, historically successful states continue to do well in competing for research support. It should also be noted, however, that the EPSCoR states have not lost ground, and it is clear that virtually all have improved their research capacity in absolute, if not relative, terms. Nevertheless, because EPSCoR funding constitutes a relatively small percentage of each EPSCoR state’s total research funding, the precise role that the programs have played in this effort is difficult to determine.