Kansas University professor Ted Kuwana isn't proud the state has a $1.5 million program designed to improve funding of scientific research.
"Having this grant is not an honor," Kuwana said today. "It says we're not competitive for research dollars."
Kuwana, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, is the state's director of EPSCoR, which stands for Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
The program's goal is to develop infrastructure in Kansas capable of snaring more federal research grants.
Most Kansans don't understand how far behind the state is in securing government research and development funding, Kuwana said.
He said Kansas ranks 33rd in the nation, which translates to $18 per person. The national average is $38 per capita. The shortfall in Kansas can be calculated by multiplying the $20 difference by the state's 2.4 million population.
"We supplement other states with over $40 million in tax dollars that should be used here," Kuwana said. "If we don't face up to the facts, things won't change."
The National Science Foundation allowed Kansas into EPSCoR two years ago. There are 19 states in EPSCoR, including Nebraska and Oklahoma.
The Kansas Legislature spends $1.5 million annually to the program. Money comes from lottery ticket sales and pari-mutuel dog and horse racing taxes.
A coalition of the state's three largest universities -- KU, Kansas State and Wichita State -- operate K*STAR, which is Kansas' version of EPSCoR.
K*STAR money has been allocated to two projects designed to improve science education at the grade school and high school levels. In addition, funding supports 15 research projects involving 150 state university scientists.
Dave King, former vice president of Sprint/United Telecommunications, is chair of the Kansas Science and Technology Council of Kansas.
The council is charged with providing oversight of EPSCoR in Kansas and forming a statewide strategy for improving participation in science linked to economic development.
"We're just now doing what a lot of other states already did many years ago," King said today during a visit to KU.
He said Kansas won't attract high-technology jobs in the 21st century unless it invests now in a new philosophy of economic development that brings together government, education and business.
"I don't think, generally speaking, that the public is plugged into this. We even have some difficulty with people in the Legislature," King said.
Kuwana said the state needs to invest more than $1.5 million annually in EPSCoR. The return on investment of EPSCoR programs in five states he's studied ranges from $1.15 to $1.22 for every $1 invested.
"That's a very high payoff," he said.