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Tennessee Increases Overall NSF Funding, Will Move Out of EPSCoR Support Program

The State of Tennessee has increased its share of National Science Foundation research funding from less than three-quarters of a percent to 0.94% and will cease to be eligible in the future for a special program that supports states which receive a minimal share of NSF monies.

EPSCoR, the NSF Office of Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, provides special research awards to universities in states that do not win at least 0.75 percent of NSF research expenditures nationally. The awards and related programs are designed to increase the states’ capacities for winning a larger share of federal research monies.

Tennessee has used EPSCoR support to set up TN-SCORE (the Tennessee Solar Conversion and Storage using Outreach, Research and Education program), which seeks to leverage NSF money to enhance research capacity across the state in ways that make Tennessee academic institutions more research-competitive.

In the most recent EPSCoR rankings, California institutions received 13.76% of NSF funding, followed by New York state at 6.59% and Massachusetts at 6.47%. Tennessee ranked 24th, in a tie with Connecticut and ahead of Iowa and Utah.

“Over the past four years, UTK has been effective in winning large NSF awards, and Vanderbilt has also seen a significant upward trend in NSF funding,” said John Hopkins, director of TN-SCORE and director of strategic operations for the UT System’s Office of the Executive Vice President.

Hopkins said that, with the improvement in its ranking, the state will cease to be eligible for new research infrastructure improvement awards under EPSCoR, but that existing projects like TN-SCORE and other special support will continue until completed.

“The upward trend in funding is a good sign for UTK and the state, and I expect that the collaborative network we have established . . . in TN-SCORE will help some of the smaller schools improve their awards in the future,” Hopkins said. “Our TN-SCORE experiences provide good lessons in outreach and broader impact that will be useful in executing large, multi-institutional research programs, and we will continue to share those as we work through the remaining two and a half years of the program.”

In 2010, the University of Tennessee was in the top 25 public universities in terms of NSF research funding.