News Release
Contacts: Robert T. Tad Perry, Executive Director
Carol Stonefield, Director of Information and Institutional Research

T: 605.773.3455
F: 605.773.5320


For Immediate Release 11 October 2001

University Successful at Gaining National Science Foundation Grants
South Dakota More Competitive

ABERDEEN—A special program of the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies has leveraged federal and state money to increase the capacity of the South Dakota infrastructure for science, engineering and technology so that the public universities are more competitive in earning research grants and contracts. The South Dakota Board of Regents received a status report on university research at its regular business meeting today on the campus of Northern State University.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports EPSCoR, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. "South Dakota has been one of the most improved EPSCoR states in the nation," said Dr. David Benfield, the state’s NSF-EPSCoR project director, in his report to the Regents. Benfield said that South Dakota has participated in EPSCoR since 1989, when the state was last in the nation in earning federal research grant dollars. Benfield, a professor at South Dakota State University (SDSU), explained that under the matching grant program NSF provides a state infrastructure development grant. South Dakota is one of eight states funded in fiscal year 2001. For the next three fiscal years the state will receive $3 million per year from NSF, which must be matched by $1.5 million from participating institutions. SDSU, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T), and the University of South Dakota (USD) participate in EPSCoR.

"Historically, most federal grant money for research has been awarded to states with the capacity to conduct research," said Regents President Harvey C. Jewett, Aberdeen. "With this money we have been able to leverage initial investments to attract even more grants. The $1.5 million in university money used to match the EPSCoR funding spins off into literally millions of dollars in other grants and contracts. All of this means a dynamic and challenging environment for our students. Many undergraduates have opportunities to work with professors doing cutting edge research in science, medicine, agriculture, and engineering."

In addition, the EPSCoR project has enhanced the collaboration among the participating universities, said Regents Executive Director Robert T. Tad Perry. "Several years ago the Regents and the Legislature agreed that public higher education should operate more efficiently. One way to do that is to collaborate on projects and services." Perry identified several examples of collaborative projects. SDSU’s Biostress Center of Excellence, USD’s Missouri River Institute, and SDSMT’s Atmospheric Institute will all study the biocomplexity of the upper Missouri River Basin. All three will collaborate on a project of materials and processes for the 21st Century. All will also work together on developing the ability to use two- and three-dimensional modeling with computers and three-dimensional visualization equipment. "These universities have adapted to the use of technology and the learning experiences are tremendous for both students and faculty," said Perry.

Benfield listed some of the grants received by the universities from other federal agencies. The University of South Dakota School of Medicine received an $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for five years to establish a center for neuroscience research. In addition, the Basic Biomedical Sciences faculty at USD received a $6 million grant to establish a program in cellular growth and development and bioinformatics. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded SDSMT and SDSU $1.54 million for three years. Even though some grants have not been funded, Benfield added, South Dakota is now in a position to make those applications credible. "Our grant proposals are approved at about the same rate as the national average," said Benfield. "Last year our success rate was 28% compared to the national average of 30%. We are doing quite well."

The South Dakota EPSCoR Steering Committee has identified four goals for research projects in the state, said Regent Pat Lebrun, Rapid City, a member of the steering committee. Those goals are:

  • to enhance the capacities of the state’s institutes of higher education by developing and improving the physical infrastructure and the quality of faculty;
  • to enhance the economic development of the state through improvements in the capacity in science, technology, and engineering;
  • to increase enrollment in Ph.D. programs in science and engineering; and
  • to increase the amount of federal research dollars in South Dakota over the long-term through development of the state universities’ capacity to compete nationally for those dollars.

"I have been with the Board since South Dakota joined EPSCoR. It has made a tremendous difference in the ability of our institutions to earn external funds," said Lebrun. "Of course, that ability is grounded in the quality of faculty we are able to attract and retain and in the state-of-the-art equipment that we are able to install in our university laboratories and classrooms."

Perry added, "University research can drive economic development in a state. It becomes an upward spiral. Basic research spins off into new businesses and industries. Others can take the results of basic research and apply it. Such industries tend to cluster and then reinforce the research environment for all of them. That is what leads to new products for building materials or new procedures in medicine. This is the reason building research capacity is so important to a state."

For more information contact, Dr. David Benfield, EPSCoR Project Director, South Dakota State University, (605) 688-6228, or Dr. Robert T. Tad Perry, Executive Director, South Dakota Board of Regents, (605) 773-3455.


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