JOHN H. GIBBONS
Assistant to the President for Science and Technology
12th Annual EPSCoR National Conference
September 16, 1996
Thank you. I am pleased to be with you today and to bring a message
from the President of the United States. He was disappointed he could
not be here with you himself, but wanted to send his best wishes.
Warm greeting to everyone gathered in our nation's capital for the 12th
annual EPSCoR National Conference, hosted by the National Science
Foundation and the EPSCoR Foundation.
To prepare for the challenges of the twenty-first century, America must
remain at the forefront of innovation in science and technology.
EPSCoR's conference and its theme, "Effecting Change Through EPSCoR,"
reflect your commitment to promoting research and human resource
development of the highest quality. Operating in 18 states and the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Experimental Program to Stimulate
Competitive Research has been vital in developing the ideas, the
technologies, and the applications that can accelerate
our nation's progress.
I salute your dedication to excellence and your leadership in science.
Your efforts have the potential to benefit generations to come in ways
we are just beginning to imagine today.
Best wishes for a productive conference and every future success.
We are witnesses to fundamental change in the relationship between the
federal and state governments. The devolution of responsibilities to
the states for major income support and health programs is now taking
place. This social revolution will require now more than ever that states
develop sustainable capacities for stimulating community and regional
economic development, drawing from the scientific and technological
advances of their universities, other educational institutions, and
Devolution is occurring along with the movement toward a balanced
budget. The President remains committed to achieving a balanced federal
budget by the year 2002. But he firmly believes that we must continue
to invest in science and technology to assure a bright future for each
and every American. He understands that scientific and technological
advances are crucial to the economic development and vitality of
regions, states, and localities. Such economic development the jobs it
creates and the improved quality of life for community residents it
produces are the basic building blocks of the President's bridge into
the twenty-first century.
Within the context of these very recent developments,
the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR),
which was, as you know, created in 1980, was extraordinarily
Its creators understood that our nation, founded on democratic
principles, cannot tolerate the existence of science rich/science
poor states and regions. In an era of declining federal
research budgets, intensified competition for research dollars,
and increasing state responsibilities for many programs that were
formerly federal activities, the EPSCoR concept was ahead of the
times and responded creatively to the needs and opportunities
of communities and regions in advance of historic devolution.
The results have been increased numbers of new enterprises and
good in communities where economic restructuring was having
severe consequences for family survival, and technological
diversification in struggling local economies where traditional
agrarian or industrial sources of income were declining.
EPSCoR has demonstrated that universities can join with industry
and state and federal government to promote high-quality scientific
investigations that benefit not only the state, but the
entire country. Based, as EPSCoR is, in different social, cultural,
and biological niches of 18 eligible states, scientific and
technological advances that may have been dormant and undeveloped
have flourished, to the benefit of the entire nation. As
examples: the discovery that tree fungi can produce anti-cancer
compounds occurred at Montana State University by a team of plant
pathologists as they observed a fungus nestled in the bark of
the yew tree, a source of an antięcancer compound, taxol.
EPSCoR recognized, long before the heightened interest in
human capital development in science and technology, that we
cannot accept anything less than a scientifically literate and
science-supportive citizenry, including our elected
representatives, in every state of the nation. The expanding
global economy requires such a citizenry in order for
communities, states, and regions to compete with countries
throughout the world for the good jobs of the future. We are
indebted to EPSCoR for making major contributions to human
capital development in science and technology, including
stimulating research careers among underrepresented groups
and regions who are vitally needed for our nation's scientific
and technological future.
The federal investment, $80 million in 1996, has been
relatively small, but the yields have been great. Enhancing
the capacity of "have not" states to become competitive for
federal research support was EPSCoR's original reason for being;
that goal is even more critical in the budgetary climate sixteen
years later. But while EPSCoR deserves its strong bipartisan
support in the Congress and state legislatures and in the
private sector, it, along with other highly meritorious
programs, is now a target for reduction or elimination as
part of deficit reduction. I am confident that EP
SCoR will continue to flourish, for the very reason that
it is an innovative, adaptive strategy that has earned
strong intersectoral support from the key sources of funding
in the private and public arenas.
But we must remain vigilant throughout the upcoming budgetary
cycle, and use this meeting to address how EPSCoR, based on
considerable experience of the last decade and a half, can
build from its successes and experience, and be strengthened
for the future.
As you are well aware, the competition for federal research
dollars will only increase as we work to balance the budget.
The commitment of the President to a healthy scientific and
technological enterprise in the United States must be supported
by bench scientists, their professional associations, and
the public. EPSCoR states can play a key role in that effort.
The President has also made education one of the foundations
of his bridge into the twenty-first century. He aims for
every child in every classroom to be an informed and skilled
driver on the information superhighway. We will continue to
promote the cultivation of scientific and technological
leadership for our nation. EPSCoR has fulfilled a vital
role toward this national goal by supporting mentoring our
future leaders in science, mathematics, and engineering.
On September 25, the first group of Presidential awardees in
science, technology, and engineering mentoring will be
recognized at the White House. This annual award reflects
the President's strong commitment to nurturing the scientific
and technological talent of our country. I am immensely
pleased that three of the 16 awardees come from EPSCoR states.
The EPSCoR states have accomplished a great deal since 1980, but much
remains as unfinished business. Let me mention three challenges.
EPSCoR's success stories and its remaining challenges, should
be used to inform future science policy in an era of balanced
budgets. The EPSCoR vision has spread from the National Science
Foundation to six more federal agencies, and could be expanded
to others. We need to keep score in order to track the
successes of EPSCoR and learn ways to improve for the future.
We should treat EPSCoR as a business in a highly competitive
Second, communication with the general public and with the wider
scientific community about EPSCoR and its achievements is essential
for its continued funding. Public support of science remains
very strong, but it must be sustained through communication
of concrete examples that capture the interest of the public.
EPSCoR support already has contributed outstanding examples such
as the findings about dinosaur behavior which inspired Jurassic
Park and promoted a paleontology tourism industry in Montana.
Science, mathematics and technology education, particularly the
preparation and development of teachers, remains a serious barrier
to the progress we have made thus far. The U.S. Department of
Education has estimated that in the year 2006, the nation will
need about 190,000 additional teachers in the K-12 system. The role
of EPSCoR institutions in human resource development, including
teacher preparation in the sciences and technology, must be
systematically assessed, and where successful, transferred to
other sites. Continuing training of our citizens, especially
our teachers, in the necessary science and technology skills, like
information technology, is essential to our success in the
twenty-first century. Institutions of higher education can play
vital roles in nurturing scientific interest and talent at the
pre-collegiate levels, not only in inspiring future scientists,
but individuals who are interested in teaching young people.
EPSCoR attests to the power of creative, strategic ideas in
how our nation invests in science and technology in
economically changing times. We have much to celebrate at
this meeting, but also much more to accomplish for the future.
It is my hope that this gathering will do both.
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