History of National EPSCoR Program
The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) was initiated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1979 as a unique infrastructure-building effort to encourage local action to develop long term improvements in a state’s science and engineering (S&E) enterprise. It was created in response to Congressional concerns about geographical concentration of Federal funding of academic research and development (R&D). EPSCoR is intended to expand and enhance the research capability of scientists in states that traditionally have lacked strong university-based research efforts, to help them to compete more successfully for a portion of the federal academic R&D budget.
Eligibility to participate in the NSF EPSCoR program is based on the level of NSF research funding. Each year, NSF EPSCoR compiles summary data for the preceding three years of NSF research funding by State. The data are reported by the NSF Office of Budget, Finance and Award Management and listed on the NSF’s Budget Internet Information System.
The success of NSF EPSCoR in the 1980s led Congress to expand the NSF program in the 1990s and early 2000s and create EPSCoR-related programs at the following six federal R&D agencies: the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the departments of Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The DOD and EPA EPSCoR programs are currently inactive due to budget reductions.
All agencies have research competitiveness as a cornerstone upon which the states are to develop strategies leading to future national competitiveness. Each EPSCoR state designs and executes its own strategic plans by melding exemplary research, education and economic development initiatives into a statewide approach.
History of West Virginia EPSCoR
In 1979, West Virginia was one of the first seven states selected to join the EPSCoR program. Each of these seven states received planning grants to examine the current status of their R&D enterprise and to identify activities that could lead to increased competitiveness for NSF and federal R&D funding. The EPSCoR eligible states had to form state committees for the program. The committee was charged with identifying the barriers to research competitiveness and ultimately identified individual investigators and/or small research groups with the potential to become nationally competitive for federal R&D funding. These individuals were invited to prepare S&T proposals that were subjected to merit review by outside consultants. A final “Blue Ribbon” panel of distinguished members of the national R&D community selected the states to be funded. In 1980, five states (Arkansas, Maine, Montana, South Carolina, and West Virginia) received the first EPSCoR awards.
In 2003, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Hill, the West Virginia EPSCoR program was moved from West Virginia University to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) in order to better facilitate the two major research intuitions in the state. Following the transfer of the program, the HEPC created a Division of Science and Research. In 2009, a Science and Research Council was created via legislation. The Science and Research Council serves as the EPSCoR Advisory Committee as well as managing other research investments from the state.
To guide WVEPSCoR and its evolution, a set of primary goals has been established. The goals of the program are as follows:
- Sponsor and maintain world-class research;
- Develop academic resources, a skilled workforce and a competitive research infrastructure;
- Encourage the transfer of technology to support economic growth, jobs and life enhancement;
- Encourage participation of K-12, women, rural underserved and minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and
- Maintain a focus within state government to attain these goals statewide.