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$9 million EPSCoR grant to foster integrated research

Submitted by Marmian Grimes
Phone: (907) 474-7902

07/26/07

A three-year $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation is slated to help the University of Alaska build its ability to study the changing Arctic in a holistic way.

The grant will fund phase three of Alaska's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, known as EPSCoR, which is housed at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. EPSCoR will use the money to build research capacity in Alaska by hiring scientists, supporting graduate and undergraduate research, funding business research development, and developing K-12 education and public outreach programs throughout Alaska. The program also aims to increase the participation of Alaska Natives and other underrepresented groups in scientific fields.

"The whole notion behind EPSCoR is capacity building," said UAF Chancellor Steve Jones. "This recent renewal is the third and what it does is it allows us to attract and retain faculty, recruit outstanding graduate students and really enhance the education experience for undergraduates who are involved."

The project, "Resilience and Vulnerability in a Rapidly Changing North: The Integration of Physical, Biological and Social Processes," will bring diverse disciplines together to offer a more complete picture of northern ecological and social systems.

"We will be addressing one of the most critical issues in the North--socio-economic sustainability--and we will be doing so by inviting researchers from all different fields to the table," said Peter Schweitzer, Alaska EPSCoR director and UAF anthropology professor.

The project's primary emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration is what makes it different from previous phases of the EPSCoR program.

"In order to understand " the problems of a changing North, you need that integrated perspective," Schweitzer said. "That's where the research trend is going and we want to be at the forefront of this trend."

EPSCoR is a National Science Foundation program that aims to increase research grant competitiveness in states traditionally underrepresented in research funding; boost student participation in science, mathematics and engineering; and build cooperation among education, private sector and government entities. It has programs in 25 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Alaska EPSCoR is a statewide University of Alaska program that was first established in 2001 with a $9 million NSF grant and a $4.5 million state match. The University of Alaska has pledged to contribute $3 million to the third phase of the program, which encompasses UA campuses across the state. Since its inception, Alaska EPSCoR has funded dozens of new researchers and more than 100 graduate student fellowships, and has facilitated numerous undergraduate research opportunities and public education and outreach projects.

Jones said EPSCoR and other federal capacity-building programs have played a significant role in the growth of UAF's research enterprise over the past six years. "The whole idea behind those federal programs is to help universities who may have gotten a late start, like ours, kind of play catchup," Jones said. "We really have done a good job of catching up. The biggest obstacle to growing the [UAF] research enterprise further right now is research space."

Schweitzer is the principal investigator on the EPSCoR project. Lilian Alessa of the University of Alaska Anchorage and Terry Chapin of UAF are co-principal investigators.

CONTACT: Peter Schweitzer, Alaska EPSCoR director, at (907) 474-5015 or via e-mail at ps@uaf.edu. Anne Sudkamp, EPSCoR executive officer, at (907) 474-5880 or via e-mail at anne.sudkamp@alaska.edu. Marmian Grimes, UAF public information officer, at (907) 474-7902 or via e-mail at marmian.grimes@uaf.edu.