Timothy Mulcahy, the University's vice president for research, reports that the University is experiencing an upswing in key measures of research activity.
Research on the rise
The University moves up a notch in two key areas
By Deane Morrison
January 18, 2008
It's research that makes the academic world go 'round, and so the University's recent progress on that front came as welcome news. No single statistic can wholly define the U's status among its public research university peers. But as the University strives to join the top three such institutions, its 8.4 percent increase in expenditures for research in 2006 was a step in the right direction. "It's a good indicator of the prominence of an institution," says Vice President for Research Timothy Mulcahy. "You're not going to convince people that you're in the top three public research universities if you're not high in that [expenditures] category." The figures came from an annual report for 2006--the last year for which data is available--by the National Science Foundation, which uses uniform criteria to compare science and engineering research expenditures by American universities. Mulcahy presented them as part of a wide-ranging report on research activity to the University's board of regents last month.
Crunching the numbersBetween 2005 and 2006, the University's research expenditures rose from $549 million to $595 million. That jump, second only to the University of Washington's 9.9 percent rise, allowed the U to move from tenth to ninth place among public universities. But is the U gaining ground on institutions with higher rankings? While the University's upward move is good news, it still has to regain eighth position, its standing in 2004. Mulcahy points out, though, that the gap between the third top public university and the U has narrowed. After hardly budging between 2004 ($238 million) and 2005 ($237 million), the gap fell to $205 million in 2006. With federal research budgets growing more slowly these days, however, competition for those dollars can only heat up.
"We want to be a more effective partner with industry," says Mulcahy. "We want to make it easy for companies to find what they're looking for at the University, establish long-term partnerships, and identify what [technologies] may be of use."Another thing that stands out from the charts is that the same universities (UW Madison, UCLA, U Michigan, UC San Francisco, U Washington, and UC San Diego) have accounted for the top six positions among public institutions for three years (2004-06). To get in striking distance of third position, the University may face its biggest hurdle in breaking into this group. That's because the gap between the sixth- and seventh-ranked universities was a whopping $109 million in 2004, $82 million in 2005, and $105 million in 2006. Therefore, if the gap persists and the University's research funding keeps rising at its current rate, it could take a few years just to move up this one notch.