Kevin Boatright
Office of Research

KU research continues to grow, but funding challenges loom

Wed, 04/04/2012

LAWRENCE – Research at the University of Kansas made a major impact on the state’s economy last year, in addition to finding cures, discovering new technology and benefiting Kansans everywhere.

Research expenditures at all KU campuses grew to $240.1 million in fiscal 2011, a 6.9 percent increase over 2010. That figure included all externally funded research, training and service from all sources. It is a record amount for KU and the fourth consecutive annual increase.

“A vital part of our mission as the state’s flagship university is to conduct research that benefits our state and society,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “The resources our faculty and staff bring to Kansas are helping us improve lives and foster prosperity.”

Federally funded science and engineering research – a key segment of KU’s overall total that affects national rankings – grew to $159.1 million in fiscal 2011, a 15.7 percent increase over 2010. However, part of that increase came from short-term, one-time awards under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stimulus program that has now expired. Last year, federal agencies accounted for 81.5 percent of KU’s research funding.

“I’m pleased with the 2011 results, but there’s a red flag as well,” said Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies. “KU and all other research universities face significant funding challenges in the years ahead. We’re already seeing the effects of the end of the stimulus program and the uncertain federal budget outlook. The likelihood of flat or declining federal funding for research is one reason we are ramping up efforts to obtain more support from industry and private foundations.”

Gray-Little pointed to the new Bold Aspirations strategic plan as another example of KU sharpening its research focus. “By making targeted investments – new hires, new infrastructure, and new graduate student support – in high-priority fields, we’ll be more successful in bringing research funds, and the resulting benefits, here to Kansas,” she said.

It’s also important that more faculty engage in research, said Paul Terranova, vice chancellor for research at the KU Medical Center. “At the KU Medical Center, the percentage of tenured or tenure-track faculty who participated in sponsored projects grew from 60 percent in 2002 to 77 percent in 2010. That reflects our pursuit of National Cancer Institute designation for the Cancer Center, but it was also a conscious effort to fulfill our research mission at a higher level by raising individual expectations.”

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