As Virginia Tech sponsored research grew, total expenditures slowed
Based on research expenditures of $232.6 million in 2002, Virginia Tech ranked 52nd out of 625 universities nationwide, according to the recently released National Science Foundation (NSF) survey.
In fiscal year 2001 (ending June 30, 2001), Virginia Tech ranked 49th with total research and development expenditures of $216.2 million.
Expenditures include research projects paid for (sponsored) by state and federal agencies, private foundations, and industry, as well as institutional and state investment in research, both direct and indirect. Institutional investment includes equipment and utilities, while state investment includes salaries and facilities, such as the agricultural research stations. Virginia Tech's fiscal year ends June 30, but it takes more than a year for NSF rankings because of the number of institutions and differing accounting periods.
In FY 2002, sponsored research by Virginia Tech faculty and staff totaled $125.6 million, a 13.8 percent increase over sponsored research in 2001. Sponsored research projects in 2002 ranged from collision avoidance to Virginia Bioinformatics Institute's development of a pathogen identification program as an asset for biological security. For instance, there were five NSF Career award recipients in 2002 - a program that provides a half million dollars in funding for each promising young faculty members' research and education programs.
But total expenditures for research increased only 7.3 percent. "Fiscal year 2002 saw the beginning of state budget cuts," explained Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. In spring 2002, the university saw its education and general budget decrease by $5.6 million, and the Extension and agricultural experiment station budget cut by $1.8 million.
Several other state universities also have fallen in the rankings, such as California Institute of Technology, which dropped from 50 to 55. The University of Arizona, University of Florida, North Carolina State, and Louisiana State all dropped two or three places. The University of Georgia dropped six, and Rutgers dropped four.
"While budget problems might have leveled the competition in terms of research expenditures in other states, having a medical school has been a distinct advantage to many universities," said Jim Blair, interim vice provost for research at Virginia Tech since April 1, 2003. "There are only three universities without a medical school in the top 30."
Four years ago, Steger challenged the university to achieve top 30 status by 2010. "While recovery from the state budget crisis will show up as a lagging indicator in terms of the NSF ranking, probably until 2005 - which will be reported in 2007, we have initiatives in place to continue to advance the university's vision for the future," he said.
For instance, to take advantage of the largest area of federal funding, human health, the university has created the Institute for Biomedical and Public Health Sciences. The institute will encourage cross-university research initiatives in the biomedical sciences, including food and nutrition, enhance collaborations with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, boost graduate education opportunities, and facilitate partnerships with human health institutions.
The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science has been launched to address critical science and technology needs and align with federal priorities in the physical and engineering sciences, such as nanotechnology, advanced materials, biomedical engineering, energy and the environment, and information technology. Virginia Tech's new terascale computer, "System X," enhances computational science capabilities.
Such initiatives focus equipment and staffing decisions, prioritize construction, and position faculty members to attract significant federal funding.
Virginia Tech research expenditures for FY 2003 were $247.8 million - a 6.6 percent increase over 2002. FY 2003 saw a $53 million cut from the state in Virginia Tech's education and general budget and Extension and agricultural experiment station budget. Last year (ending June 30, 2004), saw an additional $11 million reduction for a total reduction of $64 million in ongoing state support. In addition, a significant number of faculty positions were lost. "That is fewer people to do sponsored research and increases the work load of the rest of us," Blair said.
"But we are now adding faculty members and recruiting graduate students to our excellent programs, such as the three multimillion-dollar NSF-funded interdisciplinary graduate education programs in advanced networking, macromolecular science and engineering, and oxidation processes. These programs recognize our faculty's outstanding research by providing resources for students to study in these areas."
"Virginia Tech is an excellent research university," Steger said. "The faculty is doing world-class research, and we are making sure that more faculty members get the opportunity to do so. We will provide resources already in place at the top 30 institutions - space, postdoctoral positions, and graduate students. Every student, everyone with a Virginia Tech degree, the community, the state, and beyond will benefit."
According to a 2001 report by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, one state dollar invested in universities returns $5 to a state's economy. A study conducted at Virginia Tech in 2000 found that, for FY 1999, an investment of $218 million by the commonwealth resulted in $1.3 billion in regional economic activity -- a rate of return in regional economic activity of 6 to 1. "Top 30 status will require a significant investment," Steger said. "In addition to the growth in academic quality and knowledge generated through research, top 30 status will add $1.7 billion to the region's economy."
BACKGROUND Ranking and last year's rank are posted at www.irpa.vt.edu/research_ext_fy2002.htm
Research expenditures by source of funds in 2002 is:
Federal - $83 million ($77.4 million in 2001)
State and local - $63.4 million ($58.2 million in 2001)
Industry - $20.9 million ($18.4 million in 2001)
Institutional - $54.5 million ($52.5 million in 2001)
All other sources - $10.8 million ($9.8 million in 2001)
NSF assessment of research growth at universities:
U.S. Academic R&D Continues to Grow as More Universities and Colleges Expand Their R&D Activities
Arlington, VA (NSF 04-319) [May 2004] http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/infbrief/nsf04319/start.htm
What President Steger said in April 2000
"In order to become one of the country's leading universities, we will: 1) Achieve greater eminence and international prominence in science, technology, engineering, and agriculture, while building recognition in the social sciences, business, education, arts, and humanities; 2) Engage the entire university community in our leading strengths through interdisciplinary cross-cutting initiatives. Programs with the greatest potential for excellence will be targeted and given the resources to seek national and international recognition; 3) Attract highly qualified undergraduate and graduate students and expand graduate enrollment in order to support research and scholarship; 4) Increase sponsored research and scholarly and creative output, and be ranked among the nation's top 30 universities; and 5) Develop an appreciation of other cultures by expanding our global focus; by increasing international study and research opportunities; by expanding international government, university, and corporate partnerships; and by imbuing an international flavor to curricular offerings."
Contact Blair at (540) 231-5410