The National Science Foundation Act of 1950 states that “It shall be an objective of the Foundation to strengthen science and engineering research potential and education at all levels throughout the United States; and avoid undue concentration of such research and education, respectively.” This congressional directive recognized the inherent value of a truly national science and engineering (S&E) research enterprise. Over time, however, the nation’s S&E efforts became concentrated geographically, focusing primarilyon a limited number of major research universities. NSF’s resources became concentrated to the point where in 1977, in response to congressional concerns, the National Science Board (NSB) established a task force to examine the geographical distribution of NSF awards. Approval was requested for initiation of a program designed to “stimulate competitive research in regions of the country that were less able to compete successfully for research funds.” These regions are called EPSCoR jurisdictions. In 1978, NSB approved a resolution establishing the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The EPSCoR idea later expanded to other Federal agencies including NASA, DOE, and NIH (IDeA).
Montana was one of five initial jurisdictions to participate in the program starting in 1980. At that time, each received $3M for up to 5 years. Since joining the program Montana has continued to be successful at competing for NSF EPSCoR awards. In the early years most of the support from NSF EPSCoR awards went to the two Montana flagship universities, Montana State University and University of Montana. In recent years support has expanded to more meaningfully include other MUS units as well as tribal colleges and even private colleges, depending upon existing capacity to leverage ESPCoR support for measurable outcomes for the specific research of each project. Current Project Director Ray Callaway maintains a "One Montana" philosophy for the program.