WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to help create jobs and advance scientific research and discovery, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and James M. Inhofe (R-OK) are leading a bipartisan coalition of senators urging Appropriators to provide robust funding for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

Reed, Inhofe, and ten of their colleagues sent a letter urging the leaders of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) to fund EPSCoR at no less than $188 million in FY 2016.  The senators requested at least $170 million in NSF EPSCoR funding, and no less than $18 million in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) EPSCoR funding. 

“Federally-funded research helps Rhode Island’s economy and can jumpstart job growth.  EPSCoR offers a great return-on-investment, helping to spur scientific and technological breakthroughs and helping more Americans compete for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Reed.  “EPSCoR supports research and collaboration in Rhode Island by bringing together great minds from leading public and private institutions of higher learning.  Strengthening Rhode Island’s research capacity and infrastructure is critical to economic development, and it’s critical to bringing new, high-tech, science-related jobs to the state.”

The Rhode Island Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) brings together nine of the state’s public and private institutions of higher education: Brown University, Bryant University, Community College of Rhode Island, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, and the University of Rhode Island.

Senator Reed has worked to ensure Rhode Island’s EPSCoR eligibility since 2004, and now Rhode Island’s percentage of NSF funding is one of the highest of EPSCoR-eligible states.  The state currently has over $13 million in active EPSCoR awards.

“The United States has a long history of leadership in scientific research and development, but investment in these critical areas has lagged at a time when the challenges we face are mounting,” said Reed. “Government investment in scientific research has produced some of history’s greatest discoveries, and we must continue to invest in the hard work of innovation. Like a business or a school district, research facilities cannot efficiently budget their work or staff without a reliable funding stream.  Unfortunately, instead of increasing investments in our research agencies, Congress has in recent years subjected them to sequestration, government shutdowns, and other budgetary constraints. We must work to avoid those types of unnecessary barriers to discovery.”

Even as foreign governments around the world have increased their investment in scientific research, the U.S. has pulled back.  According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, federal spending on research and development (R&D) declined by 16.3% from 2010-2013, the fastest drop in a three-year period since the end of the space race in the 1970s. 

The Rhode Island Science and Technology Council estimates more than 20,000 people are employed in R&D-related positions in Rhode Island, with 118 companies that are directly engaged in R&D, as well as dozens of academic and health care institutions.

Text of the letter follows:

April 2, 2015


The Honorable Richard Shelby, Chairman

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science

Senate Committee on Appropriations

Dirksen Senate Office Building, SD-142

Washington, D.C. 20510


The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science

Senate Committee on Appropriations

Hart Senate Office Building, SH-125

Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Mikulski:

Thank you for your continued support of investments in research and development (R&D) as well as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, which are critical to our nation’s economic competitiveness.  Maintaining U.S. scientific and economic leadership, however, requires the participation of the best and brightest in every state.  To further that goal, we are writing to express our strong support for robust funding of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

First established at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1979, EPSCoR and EPSCOR-like programs now exist at five agencies including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  These programs are targeted at states and jurisdictions that are historically underserved by federal R&D funding, providing them with opportunities to strengthen their research capabilities and to advance technological innovation. 

EPSCoR has proven benefits.  Two recent studies – one from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and one from the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) –reaffirmed the importance of a national research community and the need for the United States to develop its talent and expertise.  These reports also recognized EPSCoR as the main federal program to reduce the geographic imbalance in federal research funding and improve research infrastructure and capacity throughout the states. Today, half the states and three jurisdictions account for only about 10 percent of all NSF funding. These states include: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

After agreeing that students in all parts of the country must have access to high-quality research opportunities, the Academies further concluded that EPSCoR had strengthened the national research infrastructure, provided new educational opportunities, and enhanced the science and engineering workforce.  In FY 2014, STEM outreach efforts supported by NSF EPSCoR alone reached nearly 4,000 teachers and over 70,000 K-12 students.  Additionally, many EPSCoR states have developed customized, economically relevant, science and technology plans and sought improved private sector partnerships.  These successes are crucial to supporting U.S. competitiveness in a high-tech global market.

The FY 2016 EPSCoR appropriation can build on these successes.  As such, we request your support for at least $170 million in NSF EPSCoR funding, which is consistent with the FY 2016 budget request, and no less than $18 million in NASA EPSCoR funding, which is consistent with the FY 2015 appropriation.  Your support of these EPSCoR initiatives will help strengthen the ability of EPSCoR states to compete in a global economy while benefitting all taxpayers by increasing the national research capacity, training the skilled workforce of the future, and encouraging long-term economic growth. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request.  We look forward to working with you to ensure that strong research infrastructure is available in states across the nation.


Jack Reed

James M. Inhofe

Jeanne Shaheen

Sheldon Whitehouse

Brian Schatz

Martin Heinrich

Angus S. King, Jr.

Patrick J. Leahy

Mazie K. Hirono

Chris Coons

Joe Manchin, III

Tom Carper