LAWRENCE — Federally funded research at the University of Kansas increased in 2011 to a record $162.7 million. That figure ranked KU 39th among national public research universities, according to an annual survey produced by the National Science Foundation.
This marks the first time KU has ranked in the top 40 in this category. It was 41st in 2010, 44th in 2009, 43rd in 2008 and 44th in 2007. As recently as 1996, KU ranked 55th.
The survey, which always lags by one year, ranked 896 public and private universities nationwide. According to the survey, KU conducts more federally funded research than all other universities in Kansas combined.
“All KU researchers can be proud of this recognition,” said Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies. “It’s a meaningful measure of KU’s national stature as a research university and a reminder of the importance of KU research to the university’s mission and the economic development of the state.”
In the 2011 survey, KU ranked higher than any other public university in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska or Oklahoma. It ranked second among the eight public Big 12 universities, behind only the University of Texas at Austin. A list of the top-ranked public and private universities is available online.
“The NSF survey is really a glance in the rearview mirror,” said Warren. “We and other universities were still receiving federal stimulus funding back in 2011. The view down the road is ominous. The federal budget sequester that began March 1, if not reduced or repealed, will seriously impair basic university research for years to come. At the state level, support for the higher education budget as a whole remains at risk. Taken together, continuing the growth of research at KU will be a challenge moving forward.”
Total KU research expenditures from all sources of external grants and contracts exceeded $256 million in 2011, with federal funding accounting for the largest share of the total. Principal funding agencies included the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education and the Department of Energy.
“Since federal and state funding are increasingly uncertain,” said Warren, “we are expanding our efforts to generate research support from private foundations and industry. We’ve added staff specifically to work in those two areas. We’ve also added staff whose assignment is to organize large, collaborative grant proposals in KU areas of research strength, such as energy, transportation, remote sensing, information technology and drug discovery. These investments are already starting to pay off.”