Washington Update

National Science Board Committee Receives Update on EPSCoR

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, January 26, 2023
On January 18, the National Science Board (NSB) Committee on Oversight convened to discuss the future of the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), the National Science Foundation (NSF) program designed to catalyze research capability among targeted jurisdictions. As the advisory body of NSF, NSB created EPSCoR in 1978 to provide further support for states and territories that typically receive less research funding and broaden the participation of diverse groups and institutions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Committee on Oversight strategized ways to elevate EPSCoR and maximize its impact based on the August 2022 report, “Envisioning the Future of NSF EPSCoR.” Informed by stakeholder input, listening sessions, and available metrics, the report is a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of EPSCoR’s current investment strategy and provides specific recommendations on how NSF can make the program even more effective. Strengthening collaboration between institutions, providing greater support for diverse career pathways, and increasing integration of EPSCoR across the federal government were among some of the report’s recommendations.

Sandra Richardson, EPSCoR Section Head at NSF, shared with committee members EPSCoR’s current jurisdictional reach and impact. For example, Richardson said that in fiscal year 2022, EPSCoR supported 1,725 faculty members and 3,663 trainees, including postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduate students. However, several programmatic challenges remain, as NSF aspires to create a more sustainable model whereby jurisdictions can develop into a self-sufficient innovation engine.

Richardson informed committee members of the agency’s two-year timeline to implement the “Envisioning the Future of NSF EPSCoR” report recommendations. Currently in the early stages, NSF’s next step is to engage stakeholders by disseminating recent report findings, building more partnerships, and conducting more thorough assessments of infrastructure needs. By the end of the second year, NSF intends to expand its geographic diversity focus and assess the effectiveness of new programmatic efforts. This includes cultivating greater cross-jurisdictional collaboration, particularly between non-EPSCoR and EPSCoR states, and developing new ways to partner with other NSF directorates and federal agencies.