The University Record, September 25, 2000

U-M research awards jump 44 percent

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

An unprecedented increase in funding awarded to U-M researchers in 1999–00 strengthens the U-M’s claim to being the number one research university in the nation, according to Fawwaz T. Ulaby, vice president for research.

“Our $200 million jump in research awards is momentous and puts Michigan in an extremely strong position as a national leader in research,” said Ulaby, who presented the data during a presentation to the Board of Regents at their September meeting. “This also is significant because it came during a period in which federal funding to the nation’s universities increased by only about 6 percent from the previous fiscal year.”

From July 1, 1998, to June 30, 1999 (FY1999), the U-M received $451.9 million in research awards. During FY2000, which ended June 30, 2000, awards totaled $653.6 million—an increase of 44.6 percent. Awards are typically multi-year in duration, so this large increase will not translate into the same size increase in research expenditures for the coming year.

“It is immensely gratifying to see the excellence and productivity of our faculty recognized through this large increase in new research grants,” said President Lee C. Bollinger. “I am pleased the University can leverage several years of strong state support with this impressive research portfolio. The University’s research enterprise serves our students through exposure to innovative thinking, benefits the health and well-being of the public, and augments economic growth.”

Ulaby credited campus vitality, a strong interdisciplinary culture, the quality of U-M’s research faculty, and the U-M’s internal commitment to research for the surge in funding.

“There is a general sense of excitement and vibrancy about the University’s future—a self-image that exudes pride and self-confidence,” Ulaby told the Regents. “The University’s strong interdisciplinary culture is the envy of many peer institutions. This allowed us to compete successfully in many newly introduced federal research programs whose very structure requires collaboration between experts in different disciplines.

“This past year, the U-M spent $86 million of its own funds—an increase of $14 million over FY1999—on new research facilities, new faculty start-up funding, research awards, cost-sharing funds to support federal grants and many other research-related expenditures,” he added.

“The success of our faculty in obtaining research grants reflects the excellence of the University as a whole, and, in particular, their enthusiasm for crossing disciplinary boundaries to collaborate on important topics of inquiry,” observed Provost Nancy Cantor. “This year’s large increase in research awards complements our internal investments, and many of these new awards will support research by faculty and students for years to come.”

Ulaby noted that the increase in research awards was not concentrated in one U-M school, college or research unit. Schools or colleges with the largest amounts of FY2000 research awards were: the Institute for Social Research with $122.9 million (an increase of $81.6 million), the Medical School with $246.4 million (up $44.6 million), the School of Public Health with $51.8 million (an increase of $28.9 million), LS&A with $59.1 million (up $17.3 million) and the College of Engineering with $87.1 million (an increase of $16.9 million).

“The number of research proposals and awards did not increase appreciably in FY2000, but the dollar value of awards increased substantially,” Ulaby said. “This reflects stronger and better proposals that reviewers acknowledge to be good investments by federal funding agencies.”

Ulaby also cited a healthy $46 million increase in U-M’s FY2000 expenditures in support of research over the preceding year (9.1 percent over FY1999). Research expenditures represent money spent in a given fiscal year, and much of this money originated in research awards from previous years. Research awards are funds available to support research over one or more years.

FY2000 data comparing research expenditures by universities nationwide, which are compiled and published by the National Science Foundation, will not be available until late next year. Ulaby added, however, that he expects the U-M to be ranked number one again, for the ninth consecutive year, when NSF releases its FY1999 figures in a few months.