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Sept. 19, 2002 — The University of the Virgin Islands is embarking on a new program designed to relate research to improvements in Virgin Islands communities and quality of life.
EPSCoR, the Experimental Program for the Stimulation of Competitive Research, is a National Science Foundation program started more than two decades ago to allow states and territories to upgrade research infrastructure in their area and improve competitiveness for research grants from government agencies. It seeks to support high-quality research that serves the needs of the community by building its economy, said a release.
Dr. Henry H. Smith, vice provost for research and public service at UVI, applied for and has received for the university a planning grant. During the next nine months three task forces will identify interests of researchers, strengths of local research, and community needs that research can meet, and will establish processes and criteria for selecting research focus areas to be pursued during the first three-year implementation grant period. The Virgin Islands' special interests in marine sciences, water supply and natural disasters are shared in particular by Alaska and Hawaii, which are also EPSCoR entities.
Smith is program director, and Prof. Roy Watlington is VI-EPSCoR coordinator. Smith and Watlington recently participated in a national EPSCoR program in Anchorage, Alaska.
The program is open to states or territories that have been awarded small amounts — as small as 7/10 of a percent of the NSF budget — in order to upgrade their ability to obtain and use grant funds. Because states with that low level of funding usually have no large research institutions to do the job. The lead university in such cases has to consider interests of all research institutions in the jurisdiction.
The program is awarded to UVI as coordinator of the territory-level program and, in addition to fostering research at the university, also fosters public and private sector research as well. Non-federal matching is a continuing requirement.
The planning grant, said Smith, is a one-year grant that has already begun. The following implementation grants are on a three-year basis, with reapplying necessary.
The following examples of other areas' activities financed by EPSCoR funding show the possibilities of this program for impacting the Virgin Islands' economy and life conditions:
— Puerto Rico, which has been an EPSCoR site since 1985, mounted a high-performance computing facility with a network infrastructure.
— Montana spearheads a document delivery project that involves the librarians at many of the 30-plus EPSCoR sites. The V.I. electronic connectivity makes this project viable, doing away with the sending of borrowed library books and journals for last week's research need.
— Vermont has cooperative research to improve management and restoration of the state's environment. Projects are underway in the area of public waters, treating dairy wastes, and wetlands.
— Oklahoma established the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, which allows the two states to develop a major mission to visit asteroids and bring back samples.
— Idaho has a major project with watershed restoration, including land use and farming practices, sediment damage, and water quality.
The projects range from dreams of outer space to management of wetlands, and UVI will lead the way in choosing projects that fit the needs and desires of V.I. communities.
For more about EPSCoR, visit the National Science Foundation's EPSCor Web page at www.ehr.nsf.gov/epscor/. UVI expects to mount its own EPSCor Web page soon.
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