Supports the creation of bridge programs in EPSCoR jurisdictions to support those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as research trainees, graduate students, underrepresented groups in STEM and those at vulnerable career transition points.
The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. Jurisdictions are eligible to participate in the NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Program based on their level of total NSF support over their most recent five years (see RII eligibility). Through this program, NSF facilitates the establishment of partnerships among academic institutions and organizations in governmental, non-profit, and commercial or industrial sectors that are designed to effect sustainable improvements in a jurisdiction's research infrastructure, Research and Development (R&D) capacity, and hence, its R&D competitiveness.
In response to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (H.R. 1319, sec. 7502), the National Science Foundation (NSF) established the EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program: Bridging EPSCoR Communities (RII-BEC) initiative. The RII-BEC initiative seeks to enable institutions in EPSCoR jurisdictions to set up bridge programs to facilitate the transitions of Affected Groups (e.g., women, underrepresented groups, research trainees, and graduate fellows) from one stage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) training to the next, with particular focus on providing support for individuals from groups underrepresented in STEM and those transitioning from or to minority-serving institutions (MSIs) within EPSCoR jurisdictions.
The RII-BEC initiative will accept proposals that support those individuals most strongly affected by the pandemic at vulnerable career transition points (e.g., first two years of college, or preparation for entry into graduate programs and/or the STEM workforce) within EPSCoR jurisdictions. The RII-BEC initiative will provide up to $1,000,000 total per award for up to 5 years to support the strategic goal of reducing student attrition at these key junctures to improve future R&D competitiveness of EPSCoR jurisdictions. Proposals may include partnerships within and/or across two-year and four-year institutions (including community colleges). A key feature of projects will be a program strategy and plan for recruitment, mentoring, retention, and graduation of students (U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents) in NSF-supported STEM fields, with specific efforts aimed at underrepresented groups in STEM.
The RII-BEC initiative is aligned with NSF’s commitment to increase access for underrepresented groups to the Nation’s STEM enterprise.