Dr. Joseph Bordogna
Chief Operating Officer
National Science Foundation
15th Annual NSF EPSCoR Conference
Orange Beach, Alabama
November 1, 1999
I am delighted to be here at the NSF EPSCoR Annual
All of you know NSF as a partner and friend. For many
years, partnerships have been focused elements in
NSF's long range planning process. During the past
five years, the concept of partnerships has become
a major theme throughout the recent editions of our
formal Strategic Plan. They are fundamental for accomplishing
our goals and objectives across all Foundation initiatives.
Needless to say, EPSCoR has veteran experience in
This year marks 30 years of the Internet, almost 20
years since the first EPSCoR program, and 10 years
since the Web. Each of these ideas represents a milestone
in national societal advance. Each has catapulted
us into vast new capabilities.
In EPSCoR's two decades, the program has reached a
maturity of purpose and experience that makes it appropriate
to both review the past and plan for the future.
Earlier this year, at the 10th anniversary of the EPSCoR
Coalition, NSF Director, Rita Colwell, made some very
comprehensive and important remarks. Many of you were
at that celebration meeting. I would like to reiterate
some of her comments as background for addressing
today's discussion on future direction.
EPSCoR has evolved into one of NSF's major and most
successful investments. Most of the credit for that
success belongs to you. So first I should say congratulations;
and second, I want to say thank you for all your hard
work and creative endeavor.
Throughout history, civilizations have advanced on
the backs of new ideas--unique concepts that have
changed the social order of society in some way. In
the United States, federal government support of efforts
to serve the "common good" has marked every era of
The country has consistently expanded opportunities
to a broader base of participants, first, by opening
the frontier and granting ownership to anyone willing
to develop the land. Milestones in education include
land grant colleges and universities, higher education
benefits for veterans, and head-start programs to
ensure that all our youngsters are prepared to begin
school. We can proudly add EPSCoR to that list.
As we look back on those expansive ideas and initiatives,
it is hard to imagine how anyone could oppose them.
But at the time, some very smart and highly respected
people did dissent.
A classic example of just such a reaction occurred
in 1848, at a crucial moment for a young nation. In
a speech on the Senate floor, Daniel Webster railed
against the acquisition of California and New Mexico.
He said, " I cannot conceive of anything more ridiculous,
more absurd, and more affrontive to all sober judgment
than the cry that we are profiting by the acquisition
of New Mexico and California. I hold that they are
not worth a dollar!"
Many of us here remember opposition to the EPSCoR concept.
Like California and New Mexico, EPSCoR holds its own
as a worthy investment. Nevertheless, it is useful
to set down for public record and historical value
the reasons for its establishment.
The geneticist, Maxine Singer, said it succinctly in
an interview with Bill Moyers several years ago. Singer
reminded us, "On any day, if you look at the front
page, half the stories usually have a technical or
scientific component in them. A society that turns
its back on science has to face decay and deterioration."
It is important to note that Singer speaks of the society
"as a whole" and not some narrow and exclusive segment
of society. EPSCoR, in many ways, represents the concept
of the "society as a whole." It is the expansion and
enrichment of research in the same way that land grant
colleges and the GI Bill of Rights represented the
enrichment of higher education in America.
EPSCoR was established to ensure that the United States
was the beneficiary of its vast science and engineering
talent and capability--a capability that resides in
every corner of our nation.
We know for certain that the nation's need to benefit
from all of its science and engineering talent will
not only continue but it will grow. Every institution
of higher education has a contribution to make, and
every contribution will be needed to keep the nation
Even more, we need to enable top-notch research and
education at the frontier of knowledge across the
broadest swath of our national landscape because it
will enhance prosperity for an increasing number of
EPSCoR is based on the principle that no one region,
no one group of institutions, and no special communities
have a corner on the market of good ideas, smart people,
or outstanding researchers. Great ideas can come from
just about anywhere.
EPSCoR has grown and evolved. We've seen each institution
develop its own unique models for partnerships and
outreach that have much broader application.
Beyond these important understandings, EPSCoR was also
an experiment in the way we think about research and
development, as well as, research and education. We
know that good decisions about R&D investments have
always been rooted in two basic principles, peer
review and competition for funds. These
principles underscore EPSCoR's work and have ensured
In our system of higher education, research and education
were designed to fit together and enhance each other.
But, over time, in some places, these two objectives
became unhitched, to the detriment of both, I would
The principles that undergird EPSCoR represent a mid-course
correction in our larger research system.
EPSCoR provides funds and opportunities to build research
capability across a broader set of institutions. Through
EPSCOR, we have changed the shape of research in our
higher education system. From it, we have learned
new ways to build stronger connections between research
and education, to enrich and embolden each.
Your institutions and states have also developed innovative,
even ingenious, ways to tie the fundamental research
in your institutions to the economic and social needs
of your state and regional populations. In that respect,
you serve as models to emulate for the broader community
in higher education. Good ideas are always worth sharing.
The proven successes of initiatives like EPSCoR and
SBIR has served as examples for the Administration,
members of Congress, and state governors of "what
A case in point is a 1997 Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) with the White House Office of Science and Technology,
several federal agencies including NSF, and the National
Governors' Association. Its support for Innovation
Partnerships is validation of the EPSCoR and SBIR
The agreement, titled the "U.S. Innovation Partnerships"
(USIP), calls for the expansion of a good idea--"what
works." It's a little like a repeated refrain with
different verses. EPSCoR should be proud of its exemplar
We know that the environment for research is shifting
across the nation. We know that a seamless path threads
from research and discovery to marketplace innovation
and application. We know that companies with highly-cited
and highly science-linked patents tend to have substantially
higher market-to-book values than companies with lower
impact, less science-linked patents.
This makes the work of NSF and its partners increasingly
immediate and integral to the nation's economic growth
and prosperity. This puts the partners in NSF programs
at center stage.
We will continuously look toward both our external
program participants and our internal program staff
to provide vision, new direction, and leadership.
What does this mean for EPSCoR? It means that your
past success enhances our expectations for new ideas
and directions from your institutions, your states,
and your organizations. And, I might add, from the
staff within NSF.
All of you here today are experts in partnership building.
You know that successful partnerships rest on trust
among the partners. Partnerships also rely on the
diversity of contributions that the participants bring
to the table. A partnership of government and industry
will move differently than a partnership of government
and academe. When you include all three, you have
different goals and outcomes.
The EPSCoR team now has strong and broad experience
with the Federal government, with state governments,
with SBIR members, and with local schools and communities.
It is time to integrate this experience into a greater
You are models of partnership-building and the whole
of NSF has learned much from your experiences and
examples. You also know that those lessons have had
a much broader impact. All those with whom you have
partnered have benefited from your insight and adaptability.
The connections you have built in partnerships are
forming a whole new infrastructure that can become
the basis for wealth creation across a broader range
of regional and state economies around the country.
Your greatest strength may be in the very diversity
of combinations and partners that you have assembled.
We should always view these combinations as creative
arrangements. We must understand that they are not
formulas to be automatically replicated. Rather, they
are new patterns to be ingeniously enhanced each time
the next combination is created.
Information technologies have played a transforming
and facilitating role in EPSCoR's capability to get
the job done within greatly differing circumstances.
IT networks have given every EPSCoR institution an
immediate, real-time connectedness. IT access and
capability have changed the definition of distant,
remote, and isolated.
We know that a new concept of distance and disconnection
comes from being IT poor or deprived. On the other
hand, geographical remoteness disappears with hook-ups
to sophisticated IT networks and systems.
With the creation of Partnerships for Advanced Computational
Infrastructure (PACI), in October 1997, every EPSCoR
state was guaranteed connection to the National Technology
Grid of supercomputers.
This broad inclusion gave all 19 states access to:
- large sophisticated supercomputers
- computer codes, computational techniques, and
the most advanced software
- hundreds of highly skilled computing experts--our
national computing talent pool.
The PACI connection elevated every EPSCoR State to
a new plateau. The horizon is broader and the opportunities
grander for the nation's entire science and engineering
A moment ago, I said that from EPSCoR we have learned
new ways to build stronger connections between research
and education. That has become just one part of a
much more expanded picture.
With the link between NSF's SBIR program and the EPSCoR
program, you have been able to create a process that
moves from research ideas toward innovation and marketplace
application. This, in fact, is the intended goal of
the Innovation Partnerships. EPSCoR has both the experience
and the connections to lead the way here.
This is a good time to consider how the future will
be different from the past--how NSF and EPSCoR can
continue to evolve. At NSF, we put together a working
group on partnerships to advance innovation. These
collaborations would connect the federal government,
States, the universities, and small and large private
This must have a very familiar ring to you. This concept
is rooted in the very skills and expertise developed
by EPSCoR participants. Thus, EPSCoR can take a more
prominent strategic position in helping to develop
NSF's 21st century vision. The goal will always be
to move discoveries and knowledge into the service
But the "service to society" concept continues to broaden.
For example, the infrastructure, which you have so
skillfully designed over the last two decades, can
also be a launching platform for teacher training
The nation's need for highly trained teachers is accelerating
at a rate far faster than we can fulfill. The greatest
need will be for teachers in the areas of EPSCoR's
best connections--science, math, technology, and engineering.
It would be both presumptuous and rude of me to ask
you to use "your connections" on our behalf. But,
I think that's exactly what I'm doing.
In the larger picture, NSF does not want to direct
your vision. In fact, just the opposite is the case.
We are counting on EPSCoR to help direct our vision.
That's what partnerships should do. And we are good
partners from the years behind, and for
the years ahead. I personally look forward to
that continuing fruitful relationship. And I speak
for all of NSF in this quest.