EPSCoR is an unlovely and perhaps unfamiliar acronym for those not steeped in funding opportunity jargon.

Originally the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, it was designed to enhance the research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions such as states, territories, and commonwealths by strengthening their research capacity and capability. The National Science Foundation (NSF), home of the first EPSCoR program, recently changed its program title to the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, reflecting its ongoing mission.

Eligibility of jurisdictions to compete in the various federal agency EPSCoR programs is based on their levels of research funding from that agency. Kansas is one of 25 jurisdictions currently eligible for the NSF EPSCoR program, which uses three major approaches to provide resources and achieve its goal:

  1. Four “tracks” of funding within the Research Infrastructure Improvement Program (more on these below);
  2. Co-funding with the NSF Directorates and Offices for supporting proposals to standard programs from investigators in EPSCoR jurisdictions; and
  3. Supporting workshops and outreach to familiarize research communities with NSF opportunities, priorities, programs, and policies.

The Research Infrastructure Improvement Program tracks provide awards that serve entire jurisdictions (Track 1), encourage collaboration across jurisdictions (Track 2), or foster the careers of untenured investigators (Track 4). Track 3 awards were offered only in 2013 and were intended to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in STEM.

Kansas has had significant success in recent years in the NSF EPSCoR program.

  • K-State AMO Physics faculty collaborate with researchers from the University of Kansas and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on the 2014–18 Track 2 award; University Distinguished Professor Itzhak Ben-Itzhak is the PI

  • K-State Division of Biology faculty member Jocelyn McDonald was awarded one of the new Track-4 grants, just announced today.

Congratulations to all of our EPSCoR investigators!

— Beth Montelone, senior associate vice president for research