This appendix consists of brief profiles of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) activities in six states: Alaska, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. These states were selected to represent the diversity in state programs, and the selection does not reflect any judgment on the relative effectiveness of state programs. They were chosen because of the way they differ in population, geography, economic base, history of research activity, length of time in the program, and other factors (see boxes B-1 through B-6). All of the information included comes from reports by the states because the committee believes it is important to see how the states understand the program, use the funding, and assess the results.
Population (2011): 0.7 M
Size: 663,268 sq mi
Gross State Production (FY 2011):$51376 M
Four-year Universities: the University of Alaska System has three branches
- Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Southeast
First year in the EPSCoR Program: 2000
Alaska became eligible for the National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR and National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) programs in 2000. Programmatic funding began arriving the
following year. Since then, Alaska has invested these funds largely on efforts to strengthen state research capabilities in environmental science and biomedicine. The research has been driven by Alaska’s unique environment—both natural and sociological. The funds have helped bolster Alaska’s research capabilities, most notably in areas related to Arctic studies, climate change, community health, and participatory research.
Alaska, which is one-fifth the size of the continental United States, is the nation’s only Arctic state. It is also the nation’s largest and most sparsely populated state. Home to less than one million people, Alaska’s population density is less than one person per square mile. Federal, state, and Native Alaska organizations own 99 percent of the land. While 40 percent of the population lives in Anchorage, the Native Alaskan population (representing 15 percent of the population) resides largely in small isolated villages, many with less than 500 people.
Vast open spaces and extreme weather make infrastructure difficult and expensive to develop, especially for transportation and energy. In this energy-rich state, electricity can nevertheless cost $1 per kilowatt hour and gasoline can cost $10 a gallon. Troves of natural resources provide a strong economic base but also create environmental challenges. The scientific consensus is that climate change will have greater impact on Alaska than any other state in the nation, rendering profound changes in sea ice levels, coastal zones, timberlands, permafrost, and ecology that will require policies that promote resilience and adaptability.
The state’s university and research community is also unique. The University of Alaska system comprises 3 main campuses—at Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Juneau (the University of Alaska Southeast)—and 13 satellite campuses. Student population totals 33,000, which is less than the student population of many flagship state universities on the continental United States. Private universities are few in number. More than 80 percent of the research in Alaska is funded by the public sector. Only 20 percent of the funds come from the private sector. In the continental United States, the percentages are nearly reversed: 72 percent of research funding is derived from the private sector and 28 percent is from the public sector.
Before the arrival of EPSCoR, Alaska’s university system had developed strengths in a number of research areas, including geophysics and Arctic research (the University of Alaska Fairbanks is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant institution). However, the system did not have strong research capabilities in either health-related environmental science or biomedicine (Alaska does not have degree-granting medical, dental, or veterinarian schools). The state’s long coastline and expansive wilderness make it an ideal place for monitoring and studying natural resources and climate change. Its isolated communities lend themselves to research—and applications of research—related to resilience and sustainability. EPSCoR has concentrated on building research capacity in these areas.
NSF EPSCoR’s 5-year $20 million Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track 1 grant initiative, Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments, which began in 2012, is phase four of an ongoing project to examine the rapid biophysical and societal changes now taking place in Alaska and explore how the people of Alaska, particularly Native Alaskans, can respond and adapt to these changes. Researchers are examining a broad range of forces driving change, including climate, urbanization, landscape transformations, social organizations, and mores and attitudes.
The project not only supports research conducted by scientists but also encourages residents and researchers to work together on challenges that span scientific and public concerns—for example, food security and public health, the impact of degraded permafrost on roadbeds and buildings, and public health and disease risks due to changing temperatures and precipitation patterns.
The project focuses on three test cases: (1) the southeast case study, where changes in ecosystem services as a result of glacial recession in the Juneau area are explored; (2) the south-central case study, where the impact on changes in land cover and precipitation on fisheries and tourism in the Kenai River watershed are examined; and (3) the northern case study, where the effects of permafrost degradation and land-cover alterations are analyzed to determine how these changes are impacting subsistence resources in Arctic and interior villages.
The research which is defined in terms of geography (and not discipline) represents a deliberate attempt to foster multidisciplinary investigations focusing on social-ecological systems. The ultimate objective is to develop and deliver decision-making tools and to create integrated modes and assessments across regions; as one researcher noted: “One goal [of the program] is to actually change the way we do science.”
The NIH IDeA is also active in Alaska. Alaska’s Institutional Networks of Biological Research Excellence (INBRE), which was launched in 2000, is a biomedical network that initially focused on infectious and toxic diseases. The research agenda has since been expanded to include microbial and computational biology, evolutionary biology, integrative physiology, neuroscience, wildlife toxicology, and the sociology of climate change. Environmental health issues, especially those related to Native Alaskans, receive special attention. The network currently examines a broad range of health issues related to diet, infectious and zoonotic diseases, ecology and climate change, health disparities, and cultural values that influence health and well-being. Specific projects have ranged from investigations into the toxicology of subsistence species that form the traditional food base of Native Americans to understanding and relieving stress in remote Arctic villages.
Like NSF EPSCoR, NIH IDeA engages local populations and community organizations and diligently pursues participatory research, seeking to draw on indigenous knowledge and local practices to enhance understanding of the issues and devise effective solutions to Alaska’s wide-ranging health challenges. NIH’s Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE)—the
Center for Alaska Native Health Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks—examines a similar set of health issues related to genetics, nutrition, diabetes, and substance abuse, especially among Native Alaskans. Research projects include, for example, an examination of Yup’ik perceptions of body weight and diabetes and assessments of the level of contaminants in subsistence food supplies.
Alaska has received funds from other EPSCoR programs. An NSF RII Track 2 has funded a joint Alaska-Hawaii project—the Pacific Area Climate Monitoring and Analysis Network—to improve the monitoring and modeling of climate change across the Pacific and to explore, for example, how climate change is affecting freshwater resources and how diminished Arctic ice packs may be impacting precipitation patterns across continents. An NSF EPSCoR RII Inter-Campus and Intra-Campus Cyber Connectivity (C 2) grant, given to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Alaska Anchorage, is strengthening cyberconnectivity, data storage, and visualization capabilities at both universities. Department of Energy (DOE) EPSCoR has awarded grants to Alaskan researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for research on hybrid wind-diesel energy systems. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) EPSCoR has funded projects to study atmospheric aerosols and satellite mapping of land-surface changes with a particular focus on permafrost degradation. In the past, Department of Defense (DOD) EPSCoR—DEPSCoR—provided a grant to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to analyze the surface-atmospheric interface of weather systems in the region.
A distinguishing feature of Alaska’s EPSCoR and IDeA programs has been an emphasis on multidisciplinary research and dedicated efforts to engage citizens and local communities in the research, not just as recipients of the findings but also as active participants in the research process. There also seems to be good coordination between the EPSCoR and IDeA programs, especially on issues related to ecological and sociological change.
The small number of education and research institutions—Alaska has fewer than 10 four-year degree-granting universities—lends itself to greater coordination. The unique conditions of the state’s Native Alaskan population, moreover, create an environment where participatory research and results-oriented investigations have an opportunity to flourish. In no other EPSCoR state does place so clearly define the research agenda and determine how EPSCoR funds are invested.
Population (2011): 2.9 M
Size: 82,277 sq mi
Gross State Production (FY 2011):$ 130923 M
Four-year Universities: there are six public Universities - the University of Kansas (KU, includes KU Medical Center); Kansas State University (KSU); Wichita State University (WSU); Fort Hays State University (FHSU); Pittsburg State University (PSU); and Emporia State University (ESU).
First year in the EPSCoR Program: 1992
Kansas first joined NSF’s EPSCoR program in 1991, when the state’s share of federal research and development (R&D) funding stood at 0.2 percent.
The state has displayed strong, persistent, and enthusiastic support for EPSCoR programs ever since. In 1996, for example, the governor of Kansas set
aside $500 million to provide a deep pool of state-matching funds for EPSCoR awards. Over the years, Kansas has established a number of state agencies, including Kansas, Inc. and the Kansas Bioscience Authority, to strengthen the state’s science and technology capabilities and to work closely with federal funding agencies.
These efforts have helped to forge productive state-federal partnerships that have proven instrumental in advancing the state’s science and technology goals. Even local governments have become involved. In 2008, Johnson County passed a 0.125 percent sales tax estimated to generate about $15 million a year. The tax provided financial support for the Johnson County Education Research Triangle. Proceeds have funded the construction and operation of the University of Kansas Edwards Campus Business, Engineering Science and Technology building, the Kansas State University International Animal Health and Food Safety Institute, and the University of Kansas Clinical Research Center.
A key to Kansas’s success has been its ability to draw on its traditional strengths in a number of different research fields that predate the arrival of funds from EPSCoR. These fields include agricultural research, aviation and transportation research, pharmaceuticals and medicinal chemistry, and human and animal health. The goal is to make Kansas a national leader in a number of research fields.
Kansas has tapped into EPSCoR funds from all federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture (USDA) (for research on crop improvement), DOD (for research on electronics and new materials), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (for research on soils and pesticides), DOE (for research on semiconductors), and NASA (for research on carbon-fiber composites).
Not surprisingly, the state’s two most important federal R&D partnerships have been with NSF and NIH.
NSF EPSCoR grants currently consist of:
•A Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 1 award, “Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Basic Science, Impacts and Mitigation.” Launched in 2009, the $20 million, 4-year project is a multi-institutional, multisectorial initiative involving four universities—Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, Wichita State University, and Haskell Indian Nation University—as well as a host of primary and secondary educational institutions and private companies. Researchers skilled in a broad cross-section of disciplines, ranging from agronomy to sociology to physics, have examined the potential environmental, social, and economic impacts of climate change on Kansas, especially on the state’s agricultural sector. The project also proposes mitigation strategies in the face of climate change to help the state make informed decisions about biofuel and food crop cultivation, energy production and consumption, and land conservation and water
use. In addition, it has created an e-curriculum and a teacher-training program to improve instruction for students in grades K–12. The project also offers summer educational opportunities for undergraduate university students from underrepresented populations, including Native American students, as part of a larger effort to expand the diversity of the state’s workforce in the fields of science and technology.
•An RII Track 2 grant, “A cyberCommons for Ecological Forecasting,” launched in 2009, is being conducted in collaboration with the state of Oklahoma. The 4-year, $6 million award seeks to build on the states’ growing capabilities in ecological observation and analysis, biodiversity, and information and communication technologies. A main objective is to create a large interactive cyberinfrastructure and database for examining and forecasting the impact of global change, due to both natural forces and human activities, on the ecology of the Central Plains. Research topics encompass food and agricultural science, plant pathology, and evolutionary biology. Kansas State University, the University Kansas, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Oklahoma participate in the project.
•An RII C 2 award, “Prairie Light – Next Generation Networking for Mid-Continent Science,” is designed to enhance the state’s cybernetwork. The 2-year, $1.7 million grant, which was begun in 2011, involves the state’s three research-intensive universities—Kansas State University, the University of Kansas, and Wichita State University—as lead institutions. It seeks to increase the reliability and capacity of the Kansas Research and Education Network, which facilitates connectivity, communication, and collaboration among universities, colleges, school districts, and other institutions. The project will also benefit the state’s other EPSCoR projects and, more generally, the state’s entire research enterprise.
The NIH IDeA program in Kansas consists of an INBRE network led by the University of Kansas Medical Center, the state’s preeminent medical research institution. The INBRE, which includes 10 campuses across the state, focuses on a broad research and capacity-building agenda related to cell and developmental biology. The primary goals are to inspire undergraduates to pursue careers in biomedical research and to enhance research capacity through faculty development and retention and the strengthening of research infrastructure. IDeA also supports six COBRE programs, encompassing such research fields as protein structure and function, cancer experimental therapeutics, regenerative and reproductive biology, emerging and infectious disease, liver health and disease, and cancer diagnosis and treatment. The goal is to build sustainable thematic research centers in these research fields.
As with NSF EPSCoR grants, the NIH IDeA program seeks to build upon the state’s medical research capabilities in such fields as pharmaceuticals,
infectious and emerging diseases, cancer research, and animal and zoonotic diseases. Since 2000, Kansas has received more than $190 million from the IDeA program. The Kansas Economic Growth Act, passed in 2004, has provided hundreds of millions of dollars more.
Kansas’s experience with EPSCoR, which just entered its third decade, illustrates several aspects of how these programs can accelerate a state’s ability to advance its science and technology agenda. Despite the state’s low standing in acquiring federal grant funds when it entered the NSF EPSCoR program, Kansas did have a number of competent research institutions in place. It also enjoyed several areas of research that were recognized for national excellence. The state, moreover, has consistently sought to support its research enterprise and to invest in areas that can both build upon its strengths and, in the process, leverage additional federal R&D funding. While EPSCoR and IDeA do not operate through a single office, there has been a series of carefully drawn and executed comprehensive plans focusing on areas of research that the state intends to pursue to gain a strong national—and even an international—presence for excellence.
The result of this concerted effort has been a rapid increase in Kansas’s reputation for research competence in a number of fields. The University of Kansas, for example, has one of the nation’s preeminent schools of pharmacy, and the University of Wichita ranks second in the nation in acquiring funds for aeronautical research and development.
A key question for both Kansas and the federal agencies that operate EPSCoR programs is whether Kansas has now attained a level of research capability and competitiveness that would enable it to compete and succeed without the “sheltered” benefits provided by EPSCoR and IDeA.
Population (2011): 1.0 M
Size: 147,042 sq mi
Gross State Production (FY 2011):$ 37990 M
Four-year Universities: there are two major systems - Montana State University – main campus at Bozeman, five branch campuses - and University of Montana – main campus at Missoula, six branch campuses
First year in the EPSCoR Program: 1980
Montana, one of the original EPSCoR states, has enjoyed a long and active affiliation with EPSCoR programs. In size, the state is the fourth largest state in the nation. In population, it is home to less than one million people. Forty-six of the state’s 56 counties are considered to be on the “frontier,” home
to no more than six people per square mile. Despite the broad environmental impacts rendered by extractive industries, which account for 60 to 70 percent of the state’s economy, Montana has one of the nation’s most pristine environments.
The combination of Montana’s size, sparse population, relatively unspoiled environment, and resource-based economy presents unique opportunities and challenges for building research capacity and competitiveness that are shared by other large, yet sparsely settled, states eligible for EPSCoR.
In 2012, Montana received a record $112.3 million in federal R&D funds. The state’s research agenda focuses on biomedicine, energy, and the environment.
A $20 million, 5-year NSF EPSCoR’s RII Track 1 project, launched in 2011, is designed to enhance environmental and ecosystem research throughout the state and to position Montana as a national leader in this broad field of study.
The grant has led to the creation of the Montana University System Institute on Ecosystems, a joint venture led by Montana State University and the University of Montana. About 45 percent of the budget is invested in research, focusing largely on the impact that climate change is having on the region’s ecosystems. The scale of the investigations ranges from microbial communities to mountain landscapes. Species and ecosystem vulnerabilities to climate change are prime aspects of the research.
In addition to the Montana State University and the University of Montana, the state’s two research universities, other members of the network include the state’s undergraduate universities and tribal college. A key goal of the project is to forge strong and enduring collaboration among the state’s research and educational institutions. Another key goal is to promote educational opportunities for students from primary through graduate school. Particular focus is placed on encouraging educational and workforce diversity in science and technology, with special attention given to Native Americans, who constitute 6 percent of the population and are the state’s largest minority group. To advance this goal, the Montana University System Institute on Ecosystems works closely with the state’s seven tribal colleges, providing fellowship opportunities and classroom and fieldwork experience for Native American students. In addition, EPSCoR funding enables the institute to oversee the Girls Collaborative Project, a nationwide project that encourages young female students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
About 16 percent of the EPSCoR budget for this project is spent on diversity issues and another 10 percent is spent on workforce development. In addition, the institute devotes about 10 percent of the budget to public outreach as part of a larger effort to educate the citizens of Montana about the challenges posed by rapid ecological change and the impact that these changes are having on the state’s environment and economy.
Montana’s EPSCoR program is housed within the State Office of Higher Education and is led by the Montana University System Science and
Technology Committee, a government board responsible for creating an integrated framework for advancing science and technology across the state. In its strategic plan, the committee has identified the environment and ecosystem services as one of Montana’s strategic research areas. It views this EPSCoR project as the cornerstone of this effort.
An NSF RII Track 2 collaborative initiative between Montana and Kentucky embraces similar research themes to the RII Track 1 award. Begun in 2009 and scheduled to continue through 2013, the $3 million initiative is developing a state-of-the-art cybersystem to track and analyze weather and water systems. The goal is to make the data accessible to researchers throughout the country. The EPSCoR-sponsored VOEIS (Virtual Observatory and Ecological Information System), an open-access cyberinfrastructure designed to acquire and analyze large weather- and climate-related environmental datasets, will serve as the hub of the informatics system. Hosted by Montana State, VOEIS works closely with sensor networks and remote data transmission sites operated by consortia members in both states.
The NIH IDeA program also has a large presence in Montana. MT INBRE is a biomedicine research network comprising Montana State University, the University of Montana, six undergraduate universities, and the state’s seven tribal colleges. It focuses on such basic medical research issues as the pathogenesis of infectious disease. The network also examines public and environmental health issues of particular importance to the state and region—for example, reservoir ecology and disease, environmental contamination and public health on Indian reservations, and the forces driving health disparities. The state has four COBREs with thematic research agendas encompassing zoonotic and emerging diseases, cellular mechanisms and systems biology, structural and functional neuroscience, and environmental health services.
Montana has also obtained funding from other federal EPSCoR programs. For example, it has received NASA EPSCoR awards to develop and test radiation-tolerant flight computers and to study the effects of aerosols on the Earth’s climate. DOE EPSCoR has funded research and graduate training grants related to carbon mitigation through geological storage. In the past, DOD and EPA also funded Montana research through its EPSCoR-like programs.
EPSCoR and IDeA expenditures have proven instrumental in shaping and advancing the state’s research agenda. The funding has helped foster collaboration among the state’s widely dispersed research and educational institutions. New information technologies have had a transformative impact on this effort. At the same time, the increasing focus that both the U.S. and global research communities have placed on issues related to the environment and ecology have provided states such as Montana with unprecedented opportunities to serve as “open air” laboratories for the study of such critical issues as climate change, the spread of infectious diseases, and the state’s ecology. The universities and research centers that lead these efforts have envisioned large roles for themselves not only within the scientific community but also within society. Objectives extend beyond science to social change. The Montana
System Institute of Ecology, for example, is seeking not only to do excellent research but also to engage and educate the people of Montana in ways that can help them cope and adapt to the ecosystem changes that are taking place.
As the strategic plan of Montana EPSCoR states, the goal is to “catalyze scientific cultural change and take Montana to the next level of national competitiveness in ecosystem sciences.” A key issue is whether the progress that has been made in improving research capacity and, to a lesser degree, research competitiveness can be sustained, in light of the broad responsibilities in research, education, and public engagement that the institute—and by extension MT EPSCoR—currently embraces.
Population (2011): 2.1 M
Size: 121,589 sq mi
Gross State Production (FY 2011):$ 79414 M
Four-year Universities: The New Mexico state university system includes six campuses
First year in the EPSCoR Program: 2001
As New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez notes in Technology 21: A Science and Technology Roadmap for New Mexico’s Future: “New Mexico is a state rich in science and technology assets and capabilities.” It has a solid public university system led by the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, and New Mexico Tech. It is a state with large military installations, including Kirtland, Holloman, and Cannon Air Force Bases, and
the White Sands Missile Range, where technology and research play important roles in fulfilling the facilities’ missions. And it is home to the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, which pursue world-class research in a broad range of fields, including biomedicine and bioscience, climate change science, information and computational science, nanotechnology, nuclear and renewable energy, nuclear weaponry, and space technology. The combined annual budgets of Los Alamos and Sandia—$4.6 billion—approach the state government’s annual budget ($5.9 billion in 2013) and represent nearly 6 percent of New Mexico’s annual gross domestic product.
Few states with such a small population—New Mexico has just 2.1 million people—can boast such expansive scientific know-how and capabilities. The state ranks first in the number of Ph.D. scientists and engineers as a percentage of population, second in the nation in R&D intensity (the share of company investments in R&D compared to sales), and sixth in the nation in science and engineering graduate students per capita.
Yet, at the same time, the share of New Mexico’s population living in poverty is among the highest in the country. In 2012, it stood at 22.2 percent for individuals. Only Mississippi’s poverty level is higher. New Mexico, moreover, ranks 47th in the nation in the percentage of children living in poverty and 44th in the nation in high-school graduation rates. More than 60 percent of the state’s students qualify for free or subsidized school meals.
Many reasons account for New Mexico’s strong showing in science and questionable showing in economic well-being. Jobs in New Mexico’s largest industry—tourism—are often low paying. Agriculture, which employs a large number of farm laborers, remains a staple of the economy. Resource industries, another significant aspect of the economy, suffer from boom-and-bust cycles. And government, which employs one-quarter of New Mexico’s population, has recently suffered significant cutbacks, particularly at the state level.
New Mexico’s participation in EPSCoR began in 2001. The state’s most recent NSF Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 1 award—a 5-year, $20 million grant launched in 2008—has focused on the impacts of climate change on northern New Mexico’s water resources. Project participants include the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech, and New Mexico Highlands University. The primary goals are to establish a meteorological and hydrological observational network comparable to that in other western states and to develop an advanced computational system for collecting and analyzing climate change data.
Other NSF EPSCoR grants are designed to complement and advance the goals of the RII Track 1 grant. For example, a $2 million RII Track 2 award, issued in 2010, provides funds for the creation of a Tri-State Western Consortium, composed of New Mexico, Nevada, and Idaho. The consortium is dedicated to collaborative projects focusing on regional climate change issues. A $1.7 million RII C 2 award, also issued in 2010, focuses on improving
broadband connectivity in tribal and regional colleges in New Mexico, including Navajo Technical College, Northern New Mexico College, and Western New Mexico College. A primary objective is to enhance access to statewide data on issues related to climate change and water.
New Mexico’s EPSCoR grants extend beyond data collection and scientific analysis to encompass science education and workforce diversity issues. An array of programs focusing largely on climate change and water issues is designed not only to improve the learning environment but also to increase enthusiasm for science (especially for climate change and water issues) among New Mexico’s student population. These programs include a summer teachers’ institute, undergraduate fieldwork and research initiative, the development of climate change curriculum for primary and secondary school students, and infrastructure seed grants for tribal and regional colleges to improve their access to electronic information networks as critical research tools.
Project advocates also express a keen interest in engaging in policy discussions and in influencing state policies on climate change and water. As the New Mexico EPSCoR Web site states: “Having a well-informed populace is critical for this research project to achieve one of its goals—transforming policy making in New Mexico by providing tools needed for science-driven water policy decisions.”
New Mexico’s EPSCoR projects encompass a broad research agenda, ranging from studying the impact of climate change on snow packs, snow melt, and runoff in the state’s high-elevation watersheds, to improving hydrologic and climate models in mountainous regions, to examining the impact of traditional water management systems (aquequias) on water conservation and use. The objectives largely focus on how scientific knowledge can assist policy makers in their efforts to design and implement fair and equitable water resource allocation policies in ways that promote economic growth.
The NIH IDeA program, which like NSF EPSCoR began in 2001, is built upon a series of COBREs that concentrate on immunology, molecular biology, neuroimaging, and brain functions. The centers—currently three in number—pursue research in a wide range of fields that includes, for example, analyses of the neural mechanisms that account for impaired cognition, antiviral therapies for Hepatitis C, and treatments for Schistosomiasis.
In addition, the NIH IDeA program supports an Institutional Network of Biomedical Research Excellence that includes New Mexico State University (the lead institution), University of Mexico, New Mexico Tech, the National Center for Genome Resources, Eastern New Mexico State University, San Juan College, New Mexico Highlands University, and Dine College. More than 33 INBRE research groups are involved in research ranging from genomics to pathogens to bioinformatics. Basic research and clinical studies focus on such diseases and ailments as cancer, strokes, seizures, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and cerebral palsy.
New Mexico has also received EPSCoR grants from the DOE, NASA, and USDA to study topics ranging from an examination of the strength and resiliency of aeronautic materials to the impact of climate change on soil chemical composition. EPSCoR-like grants provided by mission-oriented federal agencies showcase the broad range of activities conducted by the state’s research community. Yet, by virtue of their size and scope, NSF EPSCoR and NIH IDeA programs have dominated the state’s involvement with the initiative.
New Mexico’s NSF and IDeA programs have sought to draw on the state’s world-class capabilities and assets in a broad spectrum of fields in science and technology, including computational science, information and communication technologies, nanotechnology, and bioscience. The effort has shown how EPSCoR and IDeA programs can help advance and expand programs in fields of research in which a state already has considerable intellectual strengths and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities.
But New Mexico also offers a cautionary tale on the role that world-class science can play in state efforts to promote economic development. Clearly, the presence of such valuable scientific capabilities and assets has had a significant impact on research in New Mexico. Thanks largely to federal investments, science and technology play an oversized role in the state’s economy, well beyond what you would expect given New Mexico’s small population. Nevertheless, the large presence of world-class research facilities has yet to ripple through the entire state as evidenced by the high rates of poverty and relatively low wages.
Serving as a bridge from research excellence to economic growth has emerged as a primary goal of EPSCoR programs. With world-class scientific facilities already in place, New Mexico provides an excellent test case on how this relationship may play out. The state’s proposal for an NSF EPSCoR RII Track 1 grant (2013–2018), which focuses on “the nexus of energy, water and environment” issues, could serve as a valuable learning tool for understanding the strengths and weaknesses of EPSCoR programs as they seek to advance their twin goals of building research capacity and promoting economic growth. New Mexico highlights the complexity inherent in harmonizing these challenges. Investments in research are critically important, but other factors matter as well.
Population (2011): 1.05 M
Size: 1,214 sq mi
Gross State Production (FY 2011):$ 50091 M
Four-year Universities: there are several universities, the most prominent of which are private, such as Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design.
First year in the EPSCoR Program: 2004
Rhode Island’s eligibility to participate in EPSCoR and EPSCoR-like programs (the state first joined NSF EPSCoR in 2004) does not deny its considerable strengths in science and technology. The state boasts nationally recognized research in such fields as oceanography and marine science, public health and medicine, and advanced manufacturing. It has a well-educated and
skilled workforce (40 percent of the workers in the private sector are employed in the high-wage industry sector). It is home to a number of elite universities, including Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design. The University of Rhode Island is a national leader in oceanographic research and education, and Roger Williams University has established a national reputation in marine law. Defense-related research in Rhode Island is driven by the U.S. Naval College and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, both world-class military research institutions.
Rhode Island’s eligibility for EPSCoR is due, in part, to its size (it ranks 43rd in population and 50th in area). The state, however, has turned its small size into an asset (at least in part) by letting its proximity and history serve as a template for collaboration that has helped to advance its research agenda, especially in areas of long-standing strength. These advances have taken place, thanks in part, to funds provided by the federal government through its EPSCoR programs.
An NSF EPSCoR RII Track 1 award, a 5-year, $20 million grant launched in 2010, supports a network of nine colleges and universities in Rhode Island that is dedicated to strengthening the state’s research capabilities and competitiveness in the field of marine life sciences. Specifically, the research seeks to better understand how marine life may be affected by climate change. The network comprises two research universities (Brown University and the University of Rhode Island [URI]) and seven undergraduate universities (Bryant College, the Community College of Rhode Island, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, and Salve Regina University). There are three core facilities: the Genomics and Sequencing Center at the University of Rhode Island Kingston, the Center for Genomics and Proteomics at Brown University in Providence, and the marine Life Science Center in Narragansett.
The ultimate goal is to have Rhode Island emerge an international leader in understanding and anticipating the response of marine organisms and marine ecosystems to climate change. Molecular and cellular biology, genomics, computational biology, and state-of-the-art data visualization are among the research fields anchoring this effort. Key questions being addressed include: What has been the response of marine life to climate variability? How are the structure and function of coastal marine food webs being reoriented in response to climate change? How will global change affect the ecology of marine pathogens and parasites?
The grant also invests in faculty development, student training and public education and awareness. In addition, grant funds will be used to expand the activities of the Rhode Island EPSCoR Academy, launched in 2006 with a previous NSF EPSCoR grant. The academy will increase the number of graduate fellowships and provide additional opportunities for networking activities among participating institutions.
Rhode Island has also received substantial funding—$42 million since 2001—from the NIH IDeA program to build research capacity, largely by mentoring junior faculty and supporting university students. INBRE, which is based at the URI College of Pharmacy, consists of six partnering universities in addition to URI: Bryant College, Brown University, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, and Salve Regina University. Research conducted by the network concentrates on such fields as molecular toxicology, cell biology, and behavioral science. Prime capacity-building activities include faculty development and student training for undergraduates, graduates, and postgraduates.
Rhode Island also has a number of NIH COBREs: for cancer research development at Rhode Island Hospital; for perinatal biology at the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island; for skeletal health and repair at the University of Rhode Island; for new approaches to tissue repair at the Roger Williams Medical Center; for new stem cell biology at Roger Williams Hospital; for perinatal biology at Brown University; and for genomics and proteomics at Brown University. Rhode Island’s COBREs focus on medical research issues ranging from gastrointestinal cancer to cartilage and joint health to tissue repair and therapy to cardiopulmonary development in fetuses, newborns, and infants.
In addition to NSF EPSCoR and NIH IDeA, Rhode Island has pursued funding opportunities presented by other EPSCoR programs. For example, Brown University and the University of Rhode Island have been awarded grants from DOE EPSCoR to explore degradation mechanisms for lithium ion batteries and devise strategies to improve battery energy densities and life cycles. The effort entailed close collaboration with both national laboratories and private companies such as BASF and General Motors. Brown University also received a grant from the DEPSCoR program to improve sensing abilities of night-vision goggles as well as a NASA EPSCOR educational research grant award for faculty development and student support.
Overall, Rhode Island’s EPSCoR programs illustrate how these funds can be put to use not just to build capacity from the bottom up but also to deepen and expand areas of existing research strength. The question is whether these federal funds are supplementing (and therefore boosting state research investments) or substituting (and therefore replacing) potential funds that may have been available from elsewhere. When states like Rhode Island are eligible for federal EPSCoR and IDeA, it is hard to know where the line between EPSCoR and non-EPSCoR states should be drawn.
Population (2011): 4.7 M
Size: 32,020 sq mi
Gross State Production (FY 2011):$ 165785 M
Four-year Universities: there are eleven colleges are universities, six of which are public, including two technical colleges and The Citadel.
First year in the EPSCoR Program: 1980
South Carolina is one of the five original EPSCoR states and has been an active participant in the programs ever since. Universities in South Carolina have been awarded grants from NSF EPSCoR and NIH IDeA, as well as from EPSCoR programs managed by the USDA, DOD, DOE, EPA, and NASA.
Between 2002 and 2009, South Carolina received more than $100 million in federal funds for the construction of research space. That is more than Wisconsin, Washington, DC, Michigan, North Carolina, and Connecticut combined. To coordinate its efforts to secure federal research funds, South Carolina relies on a joint EPSCoR-IDeA Committee. The state has enjoyed long-standing effective leadership, which has proven instrumental in generating statewide backing and enthusiasm for the program. Supportive state government officials have authorized funding to help build the state’s research capacity. South Carolina has pursued a strategy in which EPSCoR and IDeA awards tend to reinforce the state’s carefully focused efforts to build scientific capacity and competitiveness in select fields.
Proponents have sought to utilize the combined federal-state investments in research to:
•Build infrastructure that encompasses both brick-and-mortar projects (for example, support for the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Center) and the hiring of faculty. Since 1990, EPSCoR-IDeA funds have allowed South Carolina to create and fill 95 junior tenure track faculty positions.
•Forge close collaboration among the state’s three Ph.D.-granting universities (Clemson University, Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina)—as well as continual interactions both with and among the state’s other institutions of higher education—to advance education, community service, public outreach, and statewide research capabilities.
•Strengthen science education and public awareness of science by supporting mentoring and training programs for junior faculty, granting graduate and postgraduate fellowships, providing opportunities for summer internships for undergraduate university and high school students, developing innovative primary and secondary school curricula, and organizing media workshops for print and broadcast journalists.
•Engage students from demographic groups that have been underrepresented in the fields of science and technology. EPSCoR and IDeA work closely with historically black colleges and universities in South Carolina to organize workshops and provide research experience for students from these demographic groups.
A 5-year, $20 million NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 1 grant, awarded in 2009, has been a key component of South Carolina’s efforts to become an international leader in organ printing. Research focuses on computer-generated biological material designed to create “engineered” functional tissues and organs derived from human cells. So-called biofabrication depends on scaffold-free, self-assembling biological frameworks.
A key goal of the South Carolina Alliance for Tissue Biofabrication is to design and create a three-dimensional tree-like vascular supply system that can sustain the generation of bioengineered tissues and organs to treat and potentially cure such diseases as diabetes, kidney and heart failure, and atherosclerosis.
The project has helped to expand the Medical University of South Carolina’s bioprinting program into a statewide alliance comprising 11 institutions. Specifically, project funds have been used to hire 22 new faculty and create a new degree program in biomedical engineering, construct new buildings and purchase new equipment, support the creation of an electronic network facilitating the development of state-of-the-art databases in biofabrication and vascular technology, foster workforce development and diversification, devise an innovative curriculum for instructing K–12 students about biofabrication based on e-textbooks and Internet access, nurture national and international academic-industrial collaboration, and organize media workshops on biofabrication research and applications.
Federal expenditures have helped to spur state legislative action to enhance research in the state, including passage of the Centers of Economic Excellence Act in 2002 and the Research Universities Infrastructure Act in 2004, which have provided funding for the recruitment of faculty and the building of research facilities. The latter led to the construction of research centers in regenerative medicine and tissue biofabrication, which are now housed at the Medical University of South Carolina Bioengineering Building. The centers opened in 2011.
Other examples of projects receiving support from EPSCoR programs include:
•An NIH INBRE award, first granted in 2005 and renewed in 2010, to develop a biomedical research network comprising the state’s three research and graduate-degree institutions (Clemson University, Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina) and seven predominantly undergraduate institutions (Claflin University, the College of Charleston, Francis Marion University, Furman University, South Carolina State University, University of South Carolina Beaufort, and Winthrop University). The network is pursuing 28 research projects, ranging from studies of nanoparticles for enhancing drug delivery to improved treatment of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease to the role that plaque plays in clogging and weakening arteries and increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke. The project is designed to increase research capacity through undergraduate training and junior faculty support. The goal is not only to strengthen research capacity and competitiveness but also to build a strong and lasting foundation for mentoring and teaching.
•Four COBREs have been established at the Medical University of South Carolina for the study of cardiovascular disease; oral health; lipidomics and pathobiology; and oxidants, redox balance and stress signaling. An
additional COBRE has been established at the University of South Carolina for the study of colon cancer.
•With support from DEPSCoR, the University of South Carolina has developed and analyzed large datasets for applications in homeland security and national defense.
•With funding from NASA EPSCoR, Clemson University, Michelin, Milliken, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory have forged an R&D partnership to design and test rover wheels for lunar and Martian exploration.
•With funding from DOE EPSCoR, Clemson University established strong ties with researchers at Oak Ridge and Savannah River national laboratories to design protective coatings for nuclear fuels to reduce the amount of dangerous nuclear wastes and improve the safety of nuclear energy production.
South Carolina’s experience with EPSCoR and IDeA illustrates how federal R&D funding, when aligned with strong state support and academic leadership that carefully identifies and aggressively pursues new and largely unexplored research fields, can help build “niche” scientific capacity and competitiveness that matches—and sometimes exceeds—the level of research being conducted at institutions in non-EPSCoR states.