The University Record, January 11, 1993

U is national leader in research expenditures

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

Research expenditures at the University have increased by 170.5 percent over the past decade and totaled $346.5 million in the last fiscal year, according to William C. Kelly, vice president for research. By some measures, he says, the U-M is now the nation's leader in funded research.

A recently released National Science Foundation study which monitors total research expenditures from all sources---national, state, corporate and non-profit sources---ranks the U-M second nationally among all colleges and universities, both public and private, in FY91. The U-M advanced in the rankings from the previous year's NSF study, moving ahead of that year's second-place finisher, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Among all U.S. colleges and universities, Johns Hopkins University placed first in the NSF study with $710 million in research expenditures for FY91. However, funding for the Applied Physics Laboratory, a major federal research facility affiliated with Johns Hopkins, flows through university accounts and inflates their total research expenditures, Kelly explains.

"In the report, NSF notes that $439 million of Johns Hopkins' total expenditures come from the Applied Physics Laboratory," Kelly adds. "If this amount were deducted, Johns Hopkins would drop to ninth place in the rankings and U-M would move to first place."

"The fact that Michigan is one of the leading research universities in America, as measured by research activity, is evidence of the exceptional quality of our faculty," says President James J. Duderstadt. "It also is a measure of the University's impact on our state and our nation, since the results of this research directly affect the welfare of our citizens. Finally, it is important to note that the University has brought federal R&D dollars to Michigan that represent critical investments in our state's future."

This year's NSF report shows the University is continuing its steady upward trend in levels of research activity. Since NSF began compiling statistics on university research expenditures in 1986, the U-M has moved from No. 8 to No. 2 among all colleges and universities and from No. 4 to No. 1 among all public universities.

"It is gratifying to see the University's progress in these national NSF rankings again this year," Kelly says. "It is testimony to the success of our faculty in attracting external support for their research---an ever-increasing challenge as the competition for national research funding continues to intensify."

Kelly continues: "I believe it is timely to pause and to consider some of the practical benefits that accrue to the Michigan community as a result of the University's sponsored research.

"First, the very large research expenditures represent a special kind of resource for our state. The research funds are largely imported to the state from federal and other external sources and thus represent fresh increments to Michigan's economy.

"It is equally important to recognize that these dollars do not remain within the confines of the University. On the contrary, they flow through to the state and surrounding community in a variety of ways, such as through purchasing of research supplies and equipment and through job and income support for the thousands of individuals involved in our sponsored research activities, individuals who, in turn, further support our local economy as both consumers and taxpayers.

"But there are other, perhaps less obvious, ways in which the University's research activities directly influence the development and affluence of our local community. For example, there are now some 140 high technology companies in Washtenaw County, each having at least 10 employees. We estimate that these firms provide a total of 13,500 jobs within the county, over 6,000 of them being within the city of Ann Arbor. Aside from the income support of these employees, we also estimate that, collectively, these firms annually contribute over $11 million in real property taxes to the economic base of Washtenaw County.

"Now, it would be blatantly presumptuous for me to claim that these firms were drawn to Ann Arbor solely by the magnetism of our research activities, but we think it reasonable to assume that proximity to the University's research libraries, laboratory facilities and faculty expertise in these same fields was a strong, if not dominant, factor in their decision to locate here. There can be no question as to the affiliation of 28 of these local companies, because these firms originated as direct `spin-offs' from a variety of internal U-M research programs.

"These `spin-off' companies are but one example of the University's technology transfer activities and we have been taking major steps over the past year to intensify those transfer activities, the driving motivation being to provide stronger assistance to our State and national economies."

"The NSF study," Kelly notes, "is a valuable information source that helps us track the size and vitality of the U-M's overall research efforts. However, it gives no indication whatever of scholarly quality and achievements in the humanities, performing arts and other fields where research is pathetically underfunded and cannot be gauged in terms of dollars."

The National Science Foundation study is titled, Selected Data on Academic Science and Engineering, R&D Expenditures, FY91 (Pub. #92-329).