This appendix contains brief descriptions of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) activities in all federal agencies that are currently engaged in the program: The National Science Foundation (NSF), The National Institutes of Health (NIH), The Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA). There is also a description of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) DEPSCoR program, which operated from 1995 to 2010. The information in this appendix is drawn directly from material provided by the relevant agencies and from the presentations they made at the committee’s first meeting. The format and organization of the information has been standardized to facilitate comparisons. The information includes eligibility criteria, goals, structures, budgets, and current activities. Although all the agency programs emerge from the same underlying motivation to expand and enhance research capacity, they differ in significant ways as a result of each agency’s size, mission, management structure, related programs, and research priorities.
Mission and Evolution
NSF EPSCoR was launched in 1979 in response to Congressional concerns that federal research and development (R&D) funding was concentrated in just a few states and among a few elite research institutions. The program is designed to assist NSF in achieving its statutory function "to strengthen research and education in science and engineering throughout the United States and to avoid undue concentration of such research and education."47 An overview of the program is given in Box A-1.
Specifically, NSF EPSCoR promotes sustainable improvements in R&D capacity and competitiveness among eligible states and territories. Further, it seeks to advance research activities for knowledge generation, dissemination and application; nurture collaboration among universities, government and the private sector; expand the participation of individuals and institutions in the science and technology community; and serve as a test-bed for developing other programs designed to advance NSF’s major goals.
Key aspects of NSF EPSCoR program have evolved over time. The first grants were designed to investigate the state of research in potentially eligible states and establish state committees to oversee the grant-review process in partnership with the NSF. The initial budget was $1 million (1979 dollars), shared among 5 states. Since NSF EPSCoR’s inception, Congress has appropriated more than $900 million to the initiative. In 2012, Congress allocated $151 million to NSF EPSCoR, which accounted for 2 percent of Foundation’s $7.1 billion annual budget.
Eligibility requirements have also evolved. At the program’s inception, only states receiving less than $1 million in total federal research funding and meeting multiple science and engineering indicators were considered eligible. During the 1990s, Congress adjusted the funding maximum to 0.5 percent of total NSF research funding (based on a 3-year rolling average). Science and engineering indicators were removed as eligibility requirements in the 2000s. At present, Congress requires that eligible states receive less than 0.75 percent of NSF research funds. NSF also mandates that participants create a science and technology development plan. Less stringent eligibility criteria have enabled additional states to join EPSCoR over the past decade. In FY 2012, 28 states and Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam participate in the program (see Figure A-1).
47 National Science Foundation (NSF) Act of 1950 (Pub. L. 507-81st Congress, as amended)
Overview of NSF EPSCoR
•Governing Legislation: 42 USC §1862
•Eligible Jurisdictions: 31 (2012), based on <0.75% of NSF funding
•Budget: $150.9 million (2012)
•The Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) awards provides funding for infrastructure and faculty hiring (Track 1); enhances collaboration for discovery, learning and economic development (Track 2); and expands broadband access (C-2 awards).
• Co-funding supports applications that require both EPSCoR and non-EPSCoR funding.
• Workshops & Outreach activities develop and promote best practices for promoting capacity building, workforce diversity, and science education.
•Help develop “the research infrastructure that will make [eligible states] more competitive for Foundation and other Federal research funding”
•“Integrate … EPSCoR jurisdictions in major activities and initiatives of the Foundation.”
Additional Agency Goals
•Strengthen US research and education in science and engineering
•Catalyze research themes within EPSCoR Jurisdictions
•Promote regional collaboration
•Broaden participation in Science and Engineering
•Develop, implement, and evaluate programmatic experiments
Figure A-1. Changing in NSF EPSCoR over time (Clockwise from upper left): The number of jurisdictions that have received funding has almost always tracked with the number of jurisdictions that are eligible; total funding for NSF EPSCoR has increased steadily with the totally NSF budget; the list of eligible jurisdictions for FY 2012.
The focus of NSF EPSCoR grants has changed over time. The earliest research grants were given to individual investigators. In the 1990s, NSF EPSCoR began to support multi-institutional activities. In 2005, funds for investigators were discontinued in favor of supporting research institutions and consortia. More recently, NSF EPSCoR has supported diverse areas of scientific capacity building that include science education, workforce diversification, economic development, and public appreciation for science.
Operation and Context
In contrast to NSF’s general grant program, where individual researchers submit applications directly to the Foundation, the EPSCoR application process relies on state committees to review grant proposals and recommend submissions for NSF’s consideration. EPSCoR-eligible researchers may apply for the following funding:
•The Research Infrastructure Improvement Program (RII), accounting for more than 80 percent of the NSF EPSCoR budget, is divided into three tracks:
oTrack 1 awards provide up to $4 million a year for up to 5 years to improve the capacity and competitiveness of research institutions in EPSCoR states and territories. Funds are used to build infrastructure, hire new faculty, and support graduate students in fields of research supported both by NSF and the state’s science and technology plan.
oTrack 2 awards, established in FY 2009, provide up to $2 million a year for up to 3 years to promote collaboration among EPSCoR states in science, engineering, and education. Awards are intended to enhance discovery, learning, and economic development.
oC 2 awards, established in FY 2010, provide up to $1 million for up to 2 years to promote inter- and intra-campus cyberconnectivity in EPSCoR states. The awards seek to expand broadband access for research activities that address issues conforming to the state's science and technology plan.
•Co-Funding enables individual investigator grant applications that have been recommended for an award by another NSF office, yet denied funding due to budget constraints, to receive 80 percent of funding from the EPSCoR office and 20 percent from other NSF directorates.
•Workshops and outreach awards support conferences, community activities, and travel to explore opportunities in emerging areas of science and engineering, to exchange information concerning NSF policies and programs, and to promote “best practices” for capacity building, workforce diversity, science education and other strategic areas.
NSF EPSCoR’s proposal process attempts to ensure local commitment to science and technology. EPSCoR state committees—comprised of university administrators, researchers, and representatives from the private sector, among others—seek to integrate the program into state strategies for scientific capacity and economic development. NSF mandates that states develop strategic plans for building scientific capacity and requires 20 percent cost-sharing for all RII awards. This approach has been credited with encouraging the development of niche research capabilities. For example, in West Virginia, EPSCoR funding has helped to advance bionanotechnology and molecular science; in Oklahoma, genomics and research on biofuels; in Wyoming, research on water quality and systems; and in Hawaii, research on biodiversity.48
Once research proposals are submitted to NSF, the Foundation’s internal review is intended to ensure that all activities have both scientific merit and the potential to exert a broad impact on society and the economy.
Assessments of EPSCoR, while generally positive, have elicited several criticisms. These criticisms, often produced as official agency reports, are offered as helpful suggestions designed to improve what is viewed as a
48 Presentations at 2nd NAS EPSCoR Evaluation Committee Meeting, Washington, DC, September 12-13, 2012.
worthwhile initiative. The EPSCoR 2030 report, for instance, notes that the program increasingly addresses challenges—including improving primary school science education, diversifying the science and technology workforce, and linking scientific capacity to economic development—that are only peripherally related to competitiveness.49 While these are worthy efforts, there is growing concern that NSF EPSCoR may not have sufficient resources to address such complex national issues. Observers also note that NSF has collected scant evidence supporting the program’s long-term impact in these areas.
Regarding NSF EPSCoR’s legislative objectives, NSF strongly emphasizes its effort to integrate EPSCoR states into its general research grants programs and administrative frameworks. While observers acknowledge that these efforts have not uniformly increased competitiveness, EPSCoR participants have increased their share of NSF funding, even if only in small amounts (see Figure A-2). However, no state has merited graduation by increasing its share of the NSF budget beyond 0.75 percent although Tennessee, Utah and Iowa appear on track to do so in 2013.
Figure A-2. Each cohort has benefitted from increases in its share of NSF funding, much of which occurred after joining EPSCoR. Many non-EPSCoR states, while increasing their share, have not grown as rapidly.
Moreover, the share of NSF research funding held by the 2012 EPSCoR states has remained remarkably consistent. Changes to the distribution of NSF funds do not suggest a reduction in “undue concentration.” (See Figure A-3).
49 EPSCoR 2030: A Report to the National Science Foundation (prepared by Paul Hill, Principal Investigator: Arlington, VA: NSF, 2012).
Figure A-3. EPSCoR states have not been the main beneficiaries of changes in the distribution of NSF funding. The share of non-EPSCoR funding to academic and non-profit organizations in EPSCoR states has not changed dramatically since the program’s inception.
Despite the program’s limited or negligible impacts, officials and administrators involved in EPSCoR express high regard for the program, claiming that it has not only strengthened scientific capabilities but has also changed cultural attitudes towards science by raising the profile and importance of science in economic development strategies.
Mission and Evolution
The Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program aims to increase the competitiveness of research institutions in states that historically have experienced low NIH grant proposal success rates. IDeA provides opportunities for underserved populations, augments national biomedical research capacity, and promotes economic and workforce development. An overview of the program is given in Box A-2.
Launched in 1993 with a budget of $2 million, IDeA has benefitted from broad federal interest in biomedical research. Although IDeA receives only a small portion of total NIH funding, its budget (totaling $230 million in FY 2012) makes it the largest EPSCoR-like program, accounting for half of the national EPSCoR budget allocation.
Operation and Context
IDeA is comprised of three components:
•The Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) program supports multi-disciplinary, collaborative facilities under the leadership of an established senior researcher. Junior investigators involved in the program supervise independent projects with a shared theme. Intended to develop biomedical faculty research capabilities and enhance research infrastructure within a specific institution, COBRE currently supports 84 thematic centers and receives 80 percent of the IDeA budget.
•The IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program promotes collaboration among institutions within a state. Funding is intended to improve the research capacity of partnering institutions and increase the state’s scientific capabilities by providing research support to faculty and funding research and outreach opportunities for undergraduates. INBRE currently supports 270 undergraduate institutions and funds IDeA-Net, an internet-based network designed to promote collaboration.
•The Infrastructure for Clinical and Translational Research (IDeA-CTR) program, a COBRE-related activity launched in September 2012, funds clinical and translational research on diseases that either affect medically underserved populations or are prevalent in IDeA states.
Overview of NIH IDeA
•Governing Legislation: 42 USC 282
•Eligible Jurisdictions: 24, based on proposal success rate of under 20% or average total award of under $120 million/year, from 2001 - 2005
•Budget: $230M (2012)
•IDeA Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) promotes – in three five-year phases – multi-disciplinary centers, led by an NIH-funded investigator.
• IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) support collaborations between research institutions.
• Infrastructure for Clinical & Translational Research (IDeA-CTR) grants develop regional capacity and fund collaboration across states.
•“Assist … in developing [and implementing] a plan for biomedical or behavioral research proposals”
•“Enhance the competitiveness of [IDeA institutions] in obtaining funds from the national research institutes”
Additional Agency Goals
•“Augment and strengthen biomedical research capacity”
•“Build on the established multi-disciplinary research network”
•“Provide research opportunities for students from primarily undergraduate institutions, community colleges and minority serving institutions”
•“Include accomplishments in … workforce and economy”
Programmatic evaluations underscore IDEA’s effectiveness in sustainably strengthening institutional research infrastructure and training junior investigators. Unlike other EPSCoR agencies, NIH is based on long-term funding strategies, requires participants to create detailed mentoring plans, and expects beneficiaries to develop a plan for sustaining gains once IDeA funding ceases. COBRE grants are awarded in three five-year phases. Renewal depends on success in the previous phase. Phases I and II seek to develop research infrastructure and nurture a critical mass of investigators. Phase III supports
pilot projects and additional training to ensure the center’s sustainability. At the conclusion of Phase III, COBREs are expected to maintain their research excellence through institutional support and external funding, including from non-IDeA NIH programs.
IDeA eligibility requirements, however, raise concern about the program’s trajectory. Under the official requirements—which admit all states with proposal success rates below 20 percent—40 are eligible. In response to the challenges posed by an increasing number of participants, NIH froze eligibility in FY 2008. While this action will help ease pressure on the budget, it is likely to preclude graduation. A longer-term solution is warranted (see Figure A-4).
Figure A-4. While freezing eligibility prevents growth in the number of IDeA states and safeguards the budget, it may also prevent states with growing research capabilities from graduating from the program.
IDeA concentrates on strengthening institutional research capacity and competiveness largely by helping institutions to build laboratories, purchase equipment, and support mentorship activities for faculty and students. A 2008 evaluation of the COBRE program yielded a positive program review, noting that “COBRE funds were often able to be leveraged to obtain matching funds from other sources to enhance the research infrastructure.”50
Other success metrics highlight the availability of competitive funding and the number of IDeA-related articles published in peer-reviewed journals
50 “Process Evaluation of the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Program.” Carlyn Consulting. Submitted to the National Center for Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. September 2008.
(See Figure A-5). More than 80 percent of junior investigators who have received IDeA funding have subsequently attained non-IDeA research funds from NIH and other sources. In FY 2011, COBRE’s 786 research projects—involving 1482 investigators, 21 historically black colleges and universities, 17 tribal and 21 Hispanic-serving colleges and universities—collectively published 1449 articles, with another 693 papers in press. In the same year, INBRE funded 658 research projects with 1808 investigators, supported more than 800 summer research students, and produced 610 peer-reviewed articles (with another 259 in press).
Figure A-5. Self-reported data collected by NIH indicate that IDeA supports significant shares of published articles in several IDeA states.
However, the ability of IDeA to increase the competitiveness of participating institutions for federal funding remains difficult to measure (see
Figure A-6). The Committee was unable to procure a comprehensive evaluation of non-EPSCoR federal funding by institution. Further, there is no clear way to assert that changes in institutional competitiveness result from IDeA or related programs. One potential proxy measure, the distribution of NIH science and engineering (S&E) funding by state, does not suggest a strong correlation between IDeA and competitiveness. While many IDeA states have increased their share of NIH funding over the lifetime of the program, the list of the most (and the least) competitive states remains virtually unchanged. Given that no COBRE institution has completed all three phases of the program, more time may be required before a full analysis is possible.
Figure A-6. (Left) While the percentage increase in funding share is dramatic in South Dakota (730%), North Dakota (273%), Montana (264%), and Alaska (164%), the total amount of money garnered by these states remains relatively small. (Right) The ranking of the most and least competitive states has not changed dramatically since the start of the IDeA program.
A lack of available data makes it difficult to measure IDeA’s impact on developing physical infrastructure. Moreover, wide variations in the initial competitiveness of participating institutions may give an edge to more “research ready” institutions and therefore could mean that funds are being channeled to those least in need. IDeA-supported mentoring and recruitment efforts, moreover, have been uneven. For example, the program has been more successful in recruiting male researchers than it has been in recruiting female researchers.51 More broadly, all of the indices and testimonials pointing to success beg the question of whether investments in IDeA represent the most effective way to spend NIH’s resources, especially when the success rate for NIH general research grants continues to fall due to declining federal budgets for R&D.
51 IDeA Program 2012 Report: Submitted to the National Academy of Sciences. Capacity Building Branch, Division of Training, Workforce Development, and Diversity, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health (2012).
Mission and Evolution
In line with other EPSCoR programs, USDA EPSCoR seeks to improve university research capabilities and to support faculty and young scientists in states that have historically received low levels of research funding. USDA EPSCoR also supports the agency’s long-standing mission to improve agricultural practices. As a result, applicants are encouraged to submit grants that focus not only on research but also on education and extension services. Further, USDA officials work directly with agricultural scientists and not through state oversight committees. An overview of the program is given in Box A-3.
Overview of USDA EPSCoR
•Governing Legislation: 7 USC Sec. 450i (AFRI)
•Eligible Jurisdictions: 26 (2012)
•Budget: $18.3M (2012 Strengthening)
The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) program gives EPSCoR states special consideration for fellowships, new investigator and strengthening awards. Strengthening awards, which devote 7.5% of the AFRI budget to EPSCoR and small/minority-serving institutions, include:
•Strengthening Standard Proposals.
•Strengthening Coordinated Agricultural Project Proposals.
•Seed Grants ($150,000 for two years). Sabbaticals (up to 1 year), and Equipment Grants (50% of cost or $50k).
•“Allocate grants…to high-priority research.”
•“Improve research … capabilities in States … in which institutions have been less successful.”
•Improve “research, development, technology transfer, and education capacity through the acquisition of special research equipment.”
•“Make grants for research … by multi-disciplinary teams.”
•Support “new approaches to rural development”
Operation and Context
Unlike other agencies, USDA does not operate a separate EPSCoR program as an independent program with a separate budget. Instead, USDA EPSCoR is embedded into the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), USDA’s largest competitive grants program. AFRI—which funds studies in sustainable food production, bioenergy and the environment, food safety and nutrition, and youth, family and community—supports a range of research institutions through various grants, including:
•Standard grants devoted to research, education, and extension services.
•Coordinated agricultural project (CAP) grants, which foster collaboration among individuals, institutions, states, and regions.
•New investigator awards for researchers with fewer than 5 years of post-graduate experience and no competitive federal funding beyond postdoctoral grants.
•Pre- and post- doctoral fellowships.
•Food and Agricultural Science and Enhancement (FASE) grants.
Like other EPSCoR programs, FASE restricts eligibility requirements. USDA only accepts FASE applications from states falling below the 38th percentile in terms of AFRI research funding.
If a meritorious FASE-state application does not procure funding (due to budget constraints), it is given another opportunity for consideration. FASE reserves 10 percent of the total AFRI budget for these applications. A quarter of this budget reserve, or 2.5 percent of the total, supports new investigator awards and the remaining 7.5 percent supports strengthening awards designed to build institutional capacity in eligible states or in small- and mid-sized institutions that have had limited success in securing federal funds. Strengthening awards provide for AFRI standard and CAP grants. The awards also provide funds for equipment, faculty salaries, student stipends, sabbaticals and seed money for preparing larger grant proposals.
USDA EPSCoR has several positive attributes unique to this program. Because FASE is fully integrated into USDA’s overall grants program, all applicants must first compete directly with their counterparts from across the nation. This process offers a clear and compelling gauge of competitiveness. In addition, the FASE budget framework provides greater financial protection from direct budget cuts than other EPSCoR programs since reductions in FASE funding require similar reductions in the AFRI budget. Finally, FASE’s eligibility requirements allow for a changing roster of participants and permit graduation. States such as Connecticut, Mississippi, Rhode Island and New
Mexico, for example, have become ineligible for the program based on their comparative ranking in securing AFRI funding (see Figure A-7).
Figure A-7. While the number of FASE-eligible states has remained fairly stable, FASE funding has fluctuated with the AFRI budget.
Limited information exists for assessing the ability of USDA EPSCoR to achieve its long-term goals. Unlike other agency competitive grant programs, USDA AFRI displays a relatively balanced geographical funding distribution. Between 2009 and 2012, for instance, no state received more than 10 percent of AFRI funding. However, this may not indicate that FASE-eligible states have become more competitive. Rather, the overall proposal success rate of FASE states has fallen over this period.
AFRI has clearly provided for significant research and training investments in FASE-eligible states. Of the 136,000 training months (undergraduate, graduate and post-doc) funded by AFRI since 1997, more than 16 percent were conducted through strengthening grants (see Table A-1). The long-term effects of this capacity building remain to be seen.
Table A-1 Composition of AFRI Strengthening Awards (1997 – 2012)
|Strengthening Grants||Award Count||Total Award (Millions)||Training Months|
|Career Enhancement||50||$3||(no data)|
Finally, USDA data suggest that EPSCoR states actively participate in USDA activities. Of the 522 panelists serving USDA in 2012, 14 percent originated from EPSCoR states. Unfortunately, insufficient data exist to show trends over time. Similarly, the Committee was unable to obtain sufficient information regarding the effects of USDA EPSCoR on economic development or scientific collaboration.
Mission and Evolution
Launched in 1991 as part of the DOE’s University and Science Education Programs, DOE EPSCoR seeks to enhance participant capabilities in fields relevant to the DOE research agenda. Housed in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES), DOE EPSCoR helps BES and other DOE offices sponsor interdisciplinary research in such fields as computing, biological and environmental research, fusion energy, and waste management. An overview of the program is given in Box A-4.
Initially designed to help states develop competitive proposals through planning grants, the program has increasingly focused on developing research clusters, fostering collaborative relationships between EPSCoR states and national laboratories, and providing financial support to graduate students, post-doctorate students, and young faculty.
As of FY 2012, the program budget had declined to $8.5 million, a significant reduction from FY2 011’s $22 million budget allocation. Yet, the number of eligible states increased over the same period. In 2012, twenty-eight states and three U.S. territories—including new entrants Missouri and Guam—were eligible to receive funding.
Operation and Context
DOE EPSCoR’s stated goals include enhancing the capacity of states to conduct sustainable and nationally competitive research, promoting infrastructure development through improved human and technical resources, and fostering relationships between universities and the DOE national laboratories. DOE EPSCoR pursues these goals through three grant types:
•Implementation grants provide up to $2.5 million per year (with an optional 3 year renewal) to “clusters” of scientists conducting research on a theme relevant both to DOE research and the state’s strategy for building scientific capacity. States may support concurrent proposals and grants. Other DOE offices are requested to co-fund 10 percent of the budget.
•Laboratory partnership grants allow individual principal investigators to receive up to $200,000 per year, over 3 years, to foster collaborative research with a DOE national laboratory. Grants are intended to promote student and faculty training as well as site visits.
•Early career awards, issued by the Office of Science Early Career Research Program, support the research programs of meritorious young scientists. When funds are available, EPSCoR-state applicants, who may not otherwise have received funding, are given 4 years of support through the EPSCoR program. A fifth year of support must be provided by a partner DOE program area or office.
Overview of DOE EPSCoR
•Governing Legislation: 42 USC §13503
•Eligible Jurisdictions: Based on NSF criterion
•Budget: $8.5 million (2012)
•Implementation grants promote university capabilities by funding research “clusters” for three to six years.
• Laboratory partnership grants support student and faculty development by supporting collaboration with DOE laboratories.
• Office of Science early career awards provide five years of funding, through an Office of Science program, to promising EPSCoR-eligible researchers.
•“Enhance the competitiveness of the peer review process within academic institutions
•“Increase the probability of long-term growth of competitive funding to investigators”
Additional Agency Goals
•“Jumpstart infrastructure development…through increased human and technical resources [and] training scientists and engineers
•“Build beneficial relationships between scientists and engineers in the designated states and territories with the 10 world-class laboratories managed by the Office of Science”
The DOE EPSCoR proposal assessment process includes several measures to ensure that EPSCoR funding supports both the agency mission and the state’s science and technology strategy. States, for instance, play a key role in identifying proposals for review. Laboratory partnership grants include endorsement letters. The states select a single candidate for implementation awards.
As is the case in other mission-oriented agencies, DOE’s co-funding strategy strives to ensure that EPSCoR supports the broader agency mission. All grant applicants must identify the DOE program to which their proposal is most relevant. While states are not required to provide matching funds to receive EPSCoR awards, DOE program offices are requested to co-fund up to 10 percent of each implementation grant. Laboratory partnership grants are required
to co-fund 20 percent of science early career awards. According to the DOE EPSCoR program, this measure is critical to transitioning its projects to other DOE offices.
As in other agencies, DOE EPSCoR proposals also undergo peer review based on scientific merit. To date, this process has permitted nearly two-thirds of eligible states to receive EPSCoR funding in each year for which data were readily available (see Figure A-8).
Figure A-8. Despite operating with less than 1 percent of the BES budget on average, EPSCoR funded approximately two-thirds of eligible states in the years surveyed.
Unlike other EPSCoR programs, DOE EPSCoR’s legislative mandate focuses exclusively on institutions and individual researchers rather than on states as a whole. There does not appear to be a requirement for reducing “undue geographic concentration” as, for example, in the NSF program. However, the lack of historical data on institutions and researchers calls for investigating trends at the state level.
Neither DOE funding nor proposal success trends indicate changes in the competitiveness at the state level. A review of DOE funding for science and engineering at universities, colleges, and non-profit organizations, moreover, does not suggest a significant change in the share of funding received by EPSCoR states since 1991. Similarly, while proposal success rates for non-EPSCoR and EPSCoR states have been remarkable similar, EPSCoR states do not appear to have improved their competitiveness (see Figure A-9). Rather, the gap seems to be widening despite the addition of more successful states like Rhode Island (2004), Tennessee (2004) and Utah (2009).
Figure A-9. Neither the success rate of proposals in the BES nor the EPSCoR-state share of total DOE funding suggest increases in competitiveness.
The data required to assess EPSCoR’s impact on scientific collaboration and researcher development are similarly limited. Only data regarding the number of students supported in 2011 were available (see Figure A-10).
Figure A-10. The number and type of students supported varied greatly across the states. NOTE: Data only available for 2011.
Mission and Evolution
Established in 1993, NASA EPSCoR seeks to sustainably improve the competiveness of eligible institutions in aerospace research and other fields aligned to the agency’s mission. NASA EPSCoR supports broad capacity-building goals, including greater workforce diversity, improved science education, and stronger ties between research and economic development activities. An overview of the program is given in Box A-5.
Overview of NASA EPSCoR
•Governing Legislation: 51 USC §40903
•Eligible Jurisdictions: Based on NSF criterion
•Budget: $18.3 million (2012)
•Research Infrastructure Development (RID) awards build scientific capacity by strengthening the relationships between academic and NASA researchers.
•Research awards address high-priority NASA research and technology development needs.
•“Ensure the resilience of the national space and aeronautics infrastructure”
•“Foster competitive research capacity in all geographic areas of the Nation”
•“Enhance the ability of researchers in the State to become more competitive”
•“Improve the environment for science, mathematics, and engineering education”
As at NSF, NASA EPSCoR’s governing legislation addresses equity issues, requiring the NASA Administrator to seek the “maximum distribution of grants among eligible states, consistent with merit.”52 The legislation further asserts that strengthening the research capacity of previously unsuccessful states strengthens the U.S. aviation enterprise as a whole.
52 51 USC §40903
NASA EPSCoR program objectives include developing research infrastructure in areas of strategic importance, forging partnerships between universities, industry and NASA centers, and strengthening scientific capabilities, science education, and economic development in eligible states. To ensure alignment with similar NASA programs, EPSCoR is required to work closely with NASA’s National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, which is designed to improve STEM education.
In FY 2012, NASA EPSCoR operated with a budget of $18.4 million, a decline from the $25 million FY 2010 budget. At the same time, the number of eligible states grew to 31 in 2012. Program eligibility conforms to the NSF requirement that participating states receive less than 0.75 percent of NSF funds (averaged over the past 3 years).
Operation and Context
The two main components of NSF EPSCoR are:
•Research Infrastructure Development (RID) awards, which provide $125,000 in annual funding for 3 years (with provisions for a 2-year renewal). Managed by a NASA EPSCoR Director, RID awards support seed grants, meetings, and the development of new funding proposals.
•Research Awards (RA), which provide up to $750,000 over 3 years to address high-priority NASA research and technology development needs.
NASA uses a proposal review process intended to ensure that EPSCoR funding supports agency priorities while conforming to the goals of state science and technology and economic development strategies (see Figure A-11). NASA state directors provide a point of contact between NASA and the state’s scientific partners. State directors are also required to work closely with a technical advisory committee and to coordinate their efforts with the state’s EPSCoR director. NASA evaluates RID proposals solely on the basis of technical merit. Larger RA awards are evaluated first by online peer review and then by a NASA expert panel. Once a research award has been granted, NASA monitors the work to ensure that the research meets NASA standards.
Figure A-11. NASA EPSCoR exists at the intersection of NASA priorities and the state’s economic development strategy.
RID awards require a one-to-one match in in-kind contributions and/or nonfederal funds from participating institutions. Research awards require a 50 percent match. Whereas the number of RID awards is limited to one per state, RA awards are limited by proposal merit and the available budget.
NASA collects extensive data on the benefits of its EPSCoR program. Metrics include funding per state, faculty and student participation rates and the number of publications and presentations, collaborations and patents. Data show that, in recent years, EPSCoR has supported an increasing number of research and collaborative activities as well as minority participation in science and engineering (see Figure A-12). Metrics on physical infrastructure and the “resilience of the national space and aeronautics infrastructure” are not available.
Figure A-12. There has been an increase in both the number of collaborations (left) and the number of underserved minorities (right) since 2008.
An assessment of existing funding data suggests that there have not been significant changes in the geographic distribution of funds or that NASA EPSCoR states have grown more competitive. Instead, the share of funds claimed by the 2012 EPSCoR states has fallen since the program’s inception (see Figure A-13). Information on proposal success rates across the agency was not available.
Figure A-13. Share of academic awards received by EPSCoR states. Red indicates eligible state during that year, tan indicates current (2012) eligible states.
Mission and Evolution
The Defense Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) was launched in 1995. DEPSCoR was one of several of EPSCoR-like programs created by federal agencies in the 1990s as a result of Congressional authorization. This period marked a second wave in EPSCoR that extended the program beyond its origins in the NSF. An overview of the program is given in Box A-6.
Overview of DEPSCoR
•Governing Legislation: PL 103-337 (“National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995”)
•Eligible Jurisdictions: 27 over the program’s history
•Budget: $14.1 million (2009)
•Basic and Applied Research Grants.
The typical DEPSCoR research award: about $100,000 a year for three years.
•“Enhance the capability of institutions of higher education”
•“To develop, plan, and execute competitive science and engineering research”
•“Increase probability of long-term growth in competitively awarded federal funds”
•“Enhance existing or develop new research capabilities in support of DoD research goals”
•“Intent of the DEPSCoR program to build infrastructure (human or physical capital)”
•“Build infrastructure: education of scientists and engineers”
According to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1995, DEPSCoR was designed to pursue two interrelated objectives:
•Enhance the capabilities of institutions of higher education in eligible states to develop, plan, and execute science and engineering research that is competitive under the peer-review systems used for awarding federal research funds.
•Raise the percentage of financial assistance that eligible states receive from the federal government for scientific and engineering research based on their institutions’ increased scientific capabilities and excellence.
Between FY1995 and FY2011, DEPSCoR awarded nearly 700 grants. Funding totaled $230 million over this 16-year period. The average yearly expenditure was $14.4 million. Individual grants averaged $340,000 (see Figure A-14).
Aggregate figures and averages for DEPSCoR, however, may be somewhat misleading. DEPSCoR experienced two distinct periods in funding. Between FY 1995 and FY 2004, the level of funding and the number of grants that DEPSCoR awarded declined. Between FY 2004 and FY 2009, the level of funding and the number of grant awards fluctuated, yet the average size of the awards rose substantially. From FY 1995 to FY 2002, individual awards ranged from $250,000 to $330,000. From FY 2002 to FY 2009, awards ranged from $420,000 to $500,000.
Figure A-14. DEPSCoR funding and number of awards: FY1995 – FY2009.
These figures shed light on several aspects of DEPSCoR. The declining and then fluctuating budget suggests that the program was never fully integrated into DOD strategic thinking for R&D. The trend towards larger individual grant awards indicate that DOD decided to support fewer institutions but to provide them with larger sums of money to strengthen the impact of their initiatives.
Between FY 2010 and FY 2011, DEPSCoR was discontinued. The Department has noted that “then deputy undersecretary of defense for laboratories and basic science decided to have all institutions in all states compete in all full and open funding opportunities in the DOD.” The EPSCoR/IDeA Foundation reported that “DOD would ensure DEPSCoR states participate in DOD research activities by ensuring that 20% of [the University Research Initiative] funding occurs in DEPSCoR institutions.”
Between FY 1995 and FY 1997, NSF was responsible for determining DEPSCoR’s eligibility requirements. To be eligible, a state had to receive less than 60 percent of the national average of federal science and engineering R&D funding given to universities (based on figures for the previous fiscal year or the last fiscal year for which information was available). Beginning in FY 1997, additional criteria required eligible states to receive less than 1.2 percent of DoD’s average annual science and engineering R&D funding to universities (based on calculations made over the 3 most-recent fiscal years for which information was available).
The appropriation for DEPSCoR in FY 1997 further altered eligibility requirements by no longer requiring DEPSCoR states to also be eligible for EPSCoR. However, as a practical matter, it required the proposals to be submitted through EPSCoR state committees. This made it virtually impossible for universities in non-EPSCoR states to apply for DEPSCoR grants.
Over the entire duration of the program, 27 states were eligible to participate in DEPSCoR. Of these, 15 were eligible throughout the period; 6 became eligible during the period; 2 were eligible in FY1995, lost their eligibility at some point but regained it by FY2009; and 4 that were once eligible became ineligible. Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi, and New Mexico “graduated” from the program. New Mexico was eligible only in FY 2002. The channels for moving in and out of DEPSCoR seem to have been freer flowing than in other federal agencies with EPSCoR-like programs (see Table A-2).
Table A-2 DEPSCoR eligibility from FY 1995-2009
NOTE: An X denotes a year in which a state was eligible for participation in DEPSCoR. SOURCE: Adapted from Assessment of the Defense Experimental Program To Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR): Final Report Volume I, Institute for Defense Analyses, Oct. 2008; Broad Agency Announcement No. W911NF-09-R-0003, FY2009.
The FY 2008 National Defense Authorization Act called for an assessment of the DEPSCoR program, resulting in the publication report in two volumes: Assessment of the Defense Experimental Program To Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR): Final Report Volume I—Summary and Volume II—Supporting Material.
On the positive side, the report found:
•The DEPSCoR states’ share of non-DEPSCoR DOD funding to universities increased between FY 1995 and FY 2005 despite fluctuations in DEPSCoR funding levels.
•15 percent of the states that were eligible for DEPSCoR achieved funding levels above the 1.2 percent threshold and were no longer eligible for the program.
In short, critical indices for determining the impact of DEPSCoR seemed to have improved during the period in which the program was in place.
On the negative side, the report found:
•DEPSCoR supported institutional activities that may have increased research capacity but the significance of these activities for the national research infrastructure had not been fully assessed.
•DOD’s proposal review processes was not entirely consistent with the program’s mandate to increase competitiveness for research funding.
•DOD had not established a formal DEPSCoR post-award management process to increase future competitiveness of the awardees.
•Available data on DEPSCoR activities and outcomes were insufficient for monitoring and evaluating the program.
The reports contained the following recommendations for improving DEPSCoR:
•DOD should reform the proposal review process to focus more on investigators’ potential to conduct research in the future instead of their current research capabilities.
•DOD program managers should be formally encouraged to serve as mentors and facilitators for DEPSCoR investigators seeking to engage in additional defense-related research.
•DOD should develop more sophisticated data systems for tracking DEPSCoR activities and outcomes.
•DEPSCoR’s equipment purchases and training activities should be more fully exploited to enhance institutional competitiveness (rather than focusing primarily on enhancing the competitiveness of individual investors and small teams).
•Ambiguous aspects of DEPSCoR’s legislative mandate create the potential for misinterpreting the legislative intent. Congress should re-examine and consider clarifying DEPSCoR’s legislative mandate.
•Once the DEPSCoR objectives have been clarified, the program should be redesigned with a clearer and more focused strategy for enhancing the competitiveness of individual researchers, research institutions and eligible states.
Due to the discontinuation of DEPSCoR, none of these reform measures were put into place. However, other federal agencies might find them useful to consider in their efforts to enhance the impact and effectiveness of their EPSCoR programs.