Kevin Boatright
Office of Research

KU moves up in national research ranking, though ongoing federal cuts pose challenges

Fri, 12/13/2013

LAWRENCE – The annual National Science Foundation (NSF) survey of federally funded university research expenditures placed the University of Kansas 38th last year among national public research universities. This was up one place from 2011 and up 17 places since 1996.

KU expenditures at all campuses exceeded $171 million in this specific category in 2012, up from $162.7 million in 2011. The NSF survey included 655 public and private institutions. “National public research universities” is a sub-group of the entire list. It includes comprehensive universities such as KU but excludes stand-alone medical research centers.

Among all institutions on the survey, KU ranked 72nd, up from 75th in 2011. This places KU second among the Big 12 universities, below the University of Texas at Austin (30) and above the University of Oklahoma (86). Other institutions in the region ranked by NSF include Kansas State University (132), Wichita State University (229), Missouri-Kansas City (234), Haskell Indian Nations University (431) and Pittsburg State University (552).

“Research is never about the money,” said Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, “but objective rankings such as this reflect well on KU researchers at all campuses.” 

He noted that KU is expanding and diversifying its strong funding base. It is developing large multidisciplinary federal grants while cultivating greater industry and foundation support. KU also is investing in the future by creating 64 faculty positions — including 12 prestigious Foundation Professorships – focused on research themes laid out in KU’s Bold Aspirations strategic plan.

While federally funded research expenditures increased at KU in 2012, they decreased for 60 percent of the institutions above KU on the list. "Overall," Warren said, “federally funded university research expenditures fell by $640 million in 2012, and that didn’t yet reflect the federal budget sequester that began in March. That’s an ominous sign for every research university in the country, since the federal government is by far the largest single source of university research funding.” 

At KU in 2012, 87 percent of all research funding came from the federal government.

A survey released in November by associations representing nearly 300 major universities nationwide showed that after seven months of the sequester, 70 percent of respondents were already experiencing delays in research projects, 70 percent had experienced reductions in the number of new research grants, and 58 percent were seeing negative effects on research-related personnel. That included reductions in the number of student workers and layoffs of permanent staff.

The sequester will remain in effect for another eight years unless Congress acts to end or modify the law’s automatic spending cuts. Warren said this week’s House-Senate budget agreement is an important first step in that direction. 

Warren said KU is starting to see effects from the sequester in its research budget forecasts for the next two years. Of equal concern, he said, is “the U.S. now lags many countries in government funding for research as a share of gross domestic product. That situation will only get worse unless Congress acts to reverse the trend.”

Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

.@KU bschool 's KIP team includes @KU _SADP students in all-ages housing project. #KUworks
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times