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University remains among top R&D spenders

By Adam Rubenfire, Daily News Editor
Published November 27, 2012

Once again, the University has been named a top spender among the nation’s research universities.

The University was ranked second among U.S. universities for research and development spending for fiscal year 2011 in a report released by the National Science Foundation Monday.

Coming in at approximately $1.3 billion, the University fell about $8.7 million short of the top spender, Johns Hopkins University, which spent a total of $2.1 billion. However, the University did rank first among public institutions for the third consecutive year.

The University spending increased about 8 percent from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2011. This is the 13th time in the past 27 years the University has been the top spender among public universities.

Overall, the NSF — an independent federal agency that supports scientific research and education — reported that universities spent $65 billion on research in 2011, which is a 6.3 percent increase from 2010.

The report further notes that $4.2 billion of the 2011 spending came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. About 10.2 percent of the funds used for the University’s R&D expenditures came from the ARRA.

Though the report did not rank fiscal year 2012, the University said in a statement that it spent $1.27 billion in that fiscal year, which ended June 30.

Most R&D spending at U.S. institutions was focused on life sciences, with about $37.2 billion allocated for research in that field. Engineering research totaled $10 billion, which came in second for national spending.

The survey also ranked the nation’s medical schools in order of their R&D expenditures. The University’s medical school was eighth on the list, which was led by Duke University, University of California, San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University.

Stephen Forrest, the University’s vice president of research, said in a statement that the rankings represent the continuing growth of the University's research initiatives and the individuals who make them possible.

“Our continuing success in expanding our research enterprise is a direct measure of the exceptional energy and creativity of our faculty and students," Forrest said.

Forrest added that in addition to driving education on campus, University research is bolstering local and state economies.

"Our research enterprise is central to our mission as a public university, because the excellence of our scholarship is key to educating students at the forefront of human understanding, and it fuels our collective spirit of inquiry, innovation and entrepreneurship,” Forrest said. “Innovation is the engine that invigorates and drives both the regional and national economies.”

Ronda Britt, the NSF survey statistician who managed the project, said over 900 universities in the nation were administered the survey. She added that the universities were required to have spent at least $150,000 on research in the previous fiscal year in order to be selected for this year’s survey.

“We ask about expenditures, the various sources of funding, the various fields of research (of a university),” Britt said.

She explained that the survey also posed questions related to costs of research for specific entities like equipment and staff salaries.

Britt said that the NSF is a “clearing house” for the general populous in the science community, noting that the NSF relays the information the universities give them through the surveys. Though she was not in a position to speak on behalf of the NSF, she said the University's top ranking could be attributed to its large size.

This story was updated Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. to reflect additional information.