Research funding: Major priority for U

By By Carlos Mayorga, , By Carlos Mayorga, and

By Carlos Mayorga

As federal research grants are more difficult to receive and competition among research universities nationwide to obtain funding has become more challenging, the U’s ranking in research funding has dropped.

In 2006, the U ranked 57th in the nation among all private and public institutions for total research and development expenditures.

On a national level, the race to secure research funding is “very, very competitive,” said Tom Parks, interim vice president for research. “Over the last 10 years, our ranking has actually moved down somewhat.”

Although there are fewer federal grants available and the grants have been more difficult to receive in recent years, U researchers have been more successful in securing federal awards. The drop in national ranking can be attributed to the U not obtaining enough funding from other non-federal sources, Parks said.

“What we need to do is to get non-federal funding grants and figure out ways to boost federal funding,” he said. “All we can do is help faculty get more of these grants.”

To move up in national research rankings, the U must improve at supporting faculty researchers who, in addition to federal grants, depend on funding from corporations and foundations, Parks said.

“The U doesn’t get grants,” Parks said. “Faculty get grants. Faculty do the work and write the proposals. Our job is to create an environment where it is easy for people to do good work and be competitive.”

Fred Esplin, vice president for institutional advancement, said that to remain competitive on a national level, the U is taking a proactive approach to secure more research funding by appointing a full-time faculty member whose only job will be looking for funding.

Officials are in the early stages of recruiting for this position, who will assist individual researchers and colleges for federal, corporate and foundation research grants. For example, if researchers were looking to develop a treatment for a specific disease, this person would assist researchers in seeking out corporations for grant money.

Parks said that although petitioning for research grants can be challenging, he expects the U to move up in the rankings in the future as researchers find more ways to secure funding.

“Getting funding is more competitive than sports,” Parks said. “Many universities are trying to get the same funding that we are looking for.”

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