The ND EPSCoR State Office provides leadership and coordination to broaden and diversify ND's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce pathway from elementary through graduate school; supports and grows statewide STEM research efforts and competitiveness at participating institutions of higher education; and conveys the impact of STEM research, outreach, and workforce efforts to ND stakeholders.
The ND EPSCoR State Office funds STEM workforce development programs across the educational continuum from elementary through graduate school.
Since 2014, 2,762 students (of whom 2,723 were American Indian) have participated in our Nurturing American Tribal Undergraduate Research Experience (NATURE) programs. NATURE components include university and tribal college summer camps, a monthly STEM series known as Sunday Academy, and a high school-to-college Bridge camp.
During that same timeframe, ND EPSCoR has partnered with 20 ND-based companies who sponsored 51 postsecondary student internships in the Students in Technology Transfer And Research (STTAR) program. Benefits include:
- support for companies in technical areas
- practical work experience for students
- better trained workforce
Students along the continuum also benefited from the current INSPIRE-ND program. Professional development was provided for K-12 teachers, in addition to providing access to STEM classroom modules.
Over 650 students had active roles from undergraduate to graduate research within two statewide research efforts:
- The Center for Regional Climate Studies (CRCS) has developed improved models for agricultural land use, hydrology, climate patterns, soil health, and economic forecasting for various ND crops.
- The Center for Sustainable Materials Science (CSMS) research has resulted in new discoveries in bio-based materials. Their research has developed ways to replace petrochemicals in common materials and coatings with sustainable biomass sources using ND agricultural products. The development of sustainable materials has the potential for a positive impact on the state's agricultural community.
The ND-ACES project will expand capacity be leveraging investments to generate new knowledge and increase North Dakota's competitiveness in biosciences by working collaboratively within the Center for Cellular Biointerfaces in Science and Engineering (CCBSE). The CCBSE has three pillars of scientific inquiry: materials design at biointerfaces; cellular systems at materials interface; and computation, machine learning, and predictive modeling.
For the state:
The impact of ND EPSCoR reaches across the state, through research and activities at 11 institutions. Over the past three decades, for every $1 the state has contributed for EPSCoR support, researchers at institutions of higher education across the state have successfully competed for $7.72 in external award funding. This sound investment strategy has benefited North Dakota by helping students, supporting quality faculty, growing research infrastructure capacity, and assisting with innovative research that positively impacts the state’s economy and its citizens.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) Act of 1950 recognized the value of a broad science and engineering ecosystem across all jurisdictions (states and other U.S. entities). Over time, however, the distribution of research funds became concentrated in a few geographical areas. In response to this imbalance, the National Science Board created a task force in 1977 to examine the geographical distribution of funds. In FY79, the National Science Board approved a resolution that created the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) to ensure NSF was meeting the spirit of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950.
The first sets of NSF EPSCoR awards were made in 1979, and the name was updated in 2017 to the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The main NSF research infrastructure improvement (RII) award is the RII Track-1 cooperative agreement. The Track-1 program is a federal-state partnership, which requires a state financial commitment or match to compete for the federal dollars. The Track-1 is a jurisdictional award meant to build research capacity and competitiveness across the entire state.
NSF EPSCoR has evolved since its inception. Today, the expectation and requirement for funding of a Track-1 cooperative agreement is that a state jurisdiction provide a proposal and a plan whereby the research (intellectual merit) is fully integrated with the education outreach, broadening participation, workforce development, partnerships and collaborations, and communication dissemination to the public components/broader impacts. The motivation for increased integration between research activities and the programmatic elements is to develop a fully trained and diversified workforce to position the state’s national competitiveness and to broaden and sustain economic growth at the state level beyond the funding provided by the NSF.
North Dakota became eligible for the NSF EPSCoR program in 1985 and North Dakota has been continually funded by NSF and continuously funded by North Dakota since recieving its first award in 1986. Eligibility criteria have changed over the past several decades. Today’s criterion to be considered an EPSCoR-eligible state sets the funding cutoff at 0.75% of the annual research funding provided by NSF (on a five-year running average). Currently, North Dakota is at 0.19%, largely because of the few researchers that work in the state. Additionally, jurisdictions with established EPSCoR programs, whose total NSF funding rises above 0.75% remain eligible for five additional years or until their total share of funding exceeds 0.80%. EPSCoR has always been a federal-state partnership, and the North Dakota Legislature has been very supportive for the past three decades in providing the cash match for the RII Track-1 cooperative agreement.
In the early years, the emphasis was on building research infrastructure and capacity, primarily at the state’s two research universities (RUs: North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota). Since that time, ND EPSCoR has expanded its scope. Beginning with the 2014-2021 NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 cooperative agreement, funded research partnerships have been formed at each of the five Tribal Colleges/ Universities (TCUs: Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, Sitting Bull College, Turtle Mountain Community College, and United Tribes Technical College), the three Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs: Dickinson, Mayville, and Valley City State Universities), and the Master’s College/University (MCU: Minot State University). Faculty from each of these institutions work together in the funded research centers.
The competitiveness of obtaining NSF EPSCoR RII Track-1 funding has dramatically increased. In the past ten years, over 80% of the EPSCoR jurisdictions have had to resubmit proposals for funding. The ND EPSCoR State Office was established by the North Dakota University System (NDUS) in September 2017. The state office works to: administer STEM student pathway development efforts, manage competitive research match dollars in support of STEM programs at participating institutions of higher education across the state, and inform North Dakota stakeholders. Through the support of state funding, the ND EPSCoR State Office is helping generate STEM interests among students, which helps build a diverse, skilled workforce and grow college and university-based research efforts that provide a backbone for the state's scientific and technological enterprise.
The evolution of NSF EPSCoR has expanded STEM activities within North Dakota. ND EPSCoR is a key state partner in research capacity building and other integrated activities at the RUs, the PUIs, the MCU, and the TCUs. Through the efforts of stakeholders, like ND EPSCoR, North Dakota is building a high-quality, higher education-based research effort that serves as the backbone of the state’s scientific and technological enterprise, ensuring a strong and stable economic base for the future.