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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

U.S. National Science Foundation: Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)

Christine M. Matthews
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

The Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) was authorized by Congress in 1978, partly in response to concerns in Congress and the concerns of some in academia and the scientific community about the geographic distribution of federal research and development (R&D) funds. It was argued that there was a concentration of federal R&D funds in large and wealthy states and universities, and that the continuation of such funding patterns might ensure a dichotomy between the “haves” and “have-nots.”

EPSCoR began in 1979 with five states and funding of approximately $1.0 million. Currently, EPSCoR operates in 29 jurisdictions, including 27 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date, the NSF has invested approximately $920.0 million in EPSCoR programs and activities. When established, it operated solely in the NSF. EPSCoR was expanded in the mid-1980s and early 1990s; by 1998, seven other agencies had established EPSCoR or EPSCoR-like programs.

EPSCoR is a university-oriented program, with the goal of identifying, developing, and utilizing the academic science and technology resources in a state that will lead to increased R&D competitiveness. The program is a partnership between NSF and a state to improve the R&D competitiveness through the state’s academic science and technology (S&T) infrastructure. Eventually, it is hoped that those states receiving limited federal support would improve their ability to compete successfully for federal and private sector funds through the regular grant system.

On November 18, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Appropriations Act, FY2012, P.L. 112-55. The law provides, among other things, funding for the NSF. The law provides a total of $7,033.1 million for the NSF in FY2012, $173.2 million above the FY2011 enacted level. Included in the total funding for NSF is $150.9 million for EPSCoR, approximately $5.5 million above the FY2011 level. The FY2012 appropriation for EPSCoR supports a portfolio of three complementary investment strategies— research infrastructure improvement ($109.1 million), co-funding ($40.2 million), and outreach ($1.6 million). It is anticipated that approximately 24.0% of the funding for EPSCoR in FY2012 will be used for new research awards. The remaining will be directed at providing support for grants made in previous years.

Date of Report: January 1
3, 2012
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R
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