West Virginia University received a near-record $174 million in sponsored research funding in the most recent fiscal year, second only to the previous year, which benefited from a one-time boost from federal stimulus funds.
The two-year average of $176 million represents a 35 percent improvement over the $130 million average during the previous 10 fiscal years.
“WVU is a significant player in the national competition for research and innovation grants and contracts,” WVU President Jim Clements said. “With this year’s success, our faculty and staff, as well as our graduate students deserve a great deal of credit.
“The provost, chancellor for health sciences, and the deans are working to increase our research capacity with additional faculty lines so we continue to stay strong in this area,” he said. “Research and innovation are key drivers in the WVU 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future, reflecting the high priority for these activities in our national and state economies.”
The strengthened research funding comes at the same time that donations to the WVU Foundation have reached a record $96.3 million in cash, pledges and in-kind gifts, including some significant gifts that support research.
“Our numbers these past two years reflect a continuation of our upward trend in dollars awarded to University researchers for their ongoing discovery and innovation,” said Curt Peterson, WVU vice president for research and economic development.
“This year’s figures are only about $4 million less than last year when American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding played a big role,” he said. “FY 2009 is the most recent comparable year because that year, there were only $1.8 million in stimulus dollars in the mix. So this year’s sponsored research funding ended up being $23 million more than in 2009.”
Additionally, almost 10 percent of the funding – $18.4 million – comes from industry.
Peterson credited outstanding quality proposals from WVU faculty for continuing the progress of the overall University research enterprise and noted that the WVU Research Office intensified its ongoing efforts to identify funding opportunities and prepare and encourage faculty researchers to pursue them. The efforts were reflected in the increases in grant applications and increased dollars received in 2011 as compared to 2009.
He said that funding identification and faculty assistance efforts will be even more critical considering the loss of Congressionally-directed funding avenues going forward.
“Funding agencies are recognizing the value of our research at WVU Health Sciences,” Chancellor Christopher C. Colenda, MD, MPH, said. “It’s collaborative and engages scientists from many disciplines. We are working together to solve our health problems today so that we can transform the lives of future generations not only here in West Virginia but throughout the world.”
“It is no coincidence that WVU’s research enterprise is reaching new levels of success,” Provost Michele Wheatly said. “We have made research a priority, and work every day to do more, and make it easier for our faculty to do more, so that we can fulfill our strategic plan goals and make life better for everyone, whether they live in Newell or New York. Whether it’s working to make coal mines safer, finding new sources of energy or discovering the latest pulsar, WVU researchers are pushing to take this University ever higher.
“We will not be satisfied with this record,” she said, “but will keep pushing and pushing and pushing.”
The University’s growing reputation as an up-and-coming research institution was emphasized in FY 2011 by prestigious recognition in two national research-oriented magazines: identification as one of the top places to work in academia by The Scientist and designation of a “WVU technology as the winner of an “Oscar of Innovation from R&D Magazine.
WVU was the second ranked comprehensive public university, and one of only four in total, on the list compiled by The Scientist, a respected news magazine that focuses primarily on biology and life science. WVU’s ranking pointed out that WVU is a place where cooperation and collegiality “keep research running smoothly in the face of economic adversity.”
Meanwhile, R&D Magazine named a new fuel cell-enhancing technology developed by WVU’s Xingbo Liu, in cooperation with the National Energy Technology Laboratory, as one of the “100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year.” Previous R&D 100 Award winners include such innovations as HDTV and the automated teller machine.
Peterson said WVU’s research in 2011 was focused on a wide range of areas such as: bolstering national security and defense through work on biometrics and unmanned aerial vehicles; improving water quality; ensuring the safety of Appalachia food systems; measuring soils’ ability to absorb radiation; investigating West Virginia’s geothermal energy potential; studying implications of Marcellus shale drilling; fighting cystic fibrosis; helping lung cancer patients avoid hospital visits; using video games to help patients with nervous system trauma; waging war on childhood obesity; and much more.
The funding comes from a variety of private and government sources, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, NASA and others.
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