Program Overview

EPSCoR/IDeA: A Necessary and Sound Investment in our Nation’s Future

The National Science Foundation created the Established (formerly Experimental) Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) in 1979 because Congress was troubled by the uneven distribution of federal research and development grants. After World War II, federally funded academic research grew dramatically, but national science policy, at the time, tended to funnel resources to a small number states with centers of excellence. This status quo ignored the dramatic growth in regional educational and research institutions.  In every state, talented young people aspired to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but the nation wasn’t profiting fully from the wealth of ingenuity and skill embedded across the country.  EPSCoR provided a solution. 

EPSCoR is now a federal-wide initiative spanning five agencies.  The largest of these initiatives is known as the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program and was established at the National Institutes of health in 1993.  Through EPSCoR/IDeA, participating states and territories are building a high-quality, university-based research infrastructure, which serves as a backbone to their scientific and technological enterprises as well as a strong and stable economic base.  Today, the EPSCoR/IDeA programs are accelerating science and technology for U.S. global competitiveness, prosperity and security. 

Imbalance Map

EPSCoR/IDeA: Building Research Excellence

By increasing the quality of research within the EPSCoR/IDeA jurisdictions, the federal-state partnership:

•  facilitates U.S. world leadership in science and technology by strengthening the nation’s research capability;
•  encourages all parts of the country to participate in and benefit from a strong scientific and technological enterprise;
•  builds local, state, and national support for stronger science and technology research and education;
•  expands economic opportunity and creates jobs through improved education and technology transfer; and
•  prepares a diverse and highly competent scientific and technical workforce.

EPSCoR/IDeA: Stimulating Competitiveness

Awards to EPSCoR/IDeA jurisdictions represent the highest-quality research. At the core of each of the EPSCoR/IDeA programs is a mutually beneficial federal-state partnership. Each awarded project undergoes a multi-staged and rigorous peer review. At the state level, EPSCoR/IDeA projects are aligned with and responsive to state and institutional needs and priorities. At the federal level, participating agencies externally review projects for merit to ensure they meet national standards of quality, innovation and transformative impact. In so doing, EPSCoR/
IDeA programs enable researchers and institutions to compete more effectively for “mainstream” research funds.


EPSCoR/IDeA: Making A Difference

In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) completed a study of the EPSCoR and IDeA programs and concluded that: "The Nation requires the talent, expertise, and research capabilities of all States in order to prepare sufficient numbers of scientists and engineers, remain globally competitive, and support economic development.“ The NAS study also concluded that "EPSCoR programs have enhanced the nation’s human capital by strengthening research infrastructure and training many future scientists and engineers in states where, in some cases training opportunities had been scarce and largely inadequate prior to the program’s arrival.” 

An evaluation of the National Science Foundation’s EPSCoR program, released by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) in December 2014, found that “the EPSCoR program has contributed meaningfully to jurisdictions’ increased competitiveness for NSF funds,” and also that “jurisdictions across all EPSCoR cohorts have developed their research bases and increased their S&E research and education programs, reaching, in certain cases, parity with non-EPSCoR jurisdictions.”  

Why Epscor

EPSCoR/IDeA: Looking to the Future

The scientific talent and the research infrastructure in EPSCoR/IDeA jurisdictions have undergone enormous change. More work, however, remains. The uneven distribution of federal research and development funds persists. Just five states received 40 percent of these funds, while the 24 states and three territories that comprise the EPSCoR/IDeA jurisdictions received approximately 10 percent of federal research funding in 2016. Global competition demands a highly skilled workforce, and the country’s economic future depends on scientific and technological advances everywhere, not just in a few places. Researchers in EPSCoR/IDeA states are needed for the nation to meet its most pressing priorities in health, cyberinfrastructure, and homeland security. The EPSCoR/IDeA states are poised to do more for the nation.

EPSCoR/IDeA: Scope

In FY 2019, EPSCoR/IDeA operates in the states of: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The set of eligible jurisdictions may vary among agencies.

Five federal agencies have EPSCoR/IDeA programs:

  • National Science Foundation
  • National Institutes of Health
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • U.S. Department of Energy
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture

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