UI research funds leap

BY ZHANRAN ZHAO | JULY 30, 2009 7:11 AM

UI researchers will have more money to work with in the coming year — a lot more.

Officials announced Wednesday morning funding for research from external sources, which is anyone outside the UI, rose 10.3 percent from last year’s $389 million, hitting a record $429.5 million.

“This is a remarkable increase. I can’t remember the last time that this has happened,” said Derek Willard, the UI associate vice president for Research, noting increases are usually in the single digits.

The money goes to research in all areas, from fine arts to medicine, and helps to support jobs, purchase equipment, and cover travel expenses. It also provides opportunities for students to get involved in research.

The UI has excelled in securing external funds in the past. Research has helped create 3,907 jobs and led Iowa to place 23rd nationally in terms of new jobs created from research funds provided by the National Institutes of Health, according to a 2007 report by the agency.

The increase this year, though, was particularly exceptional, not only for its magnitude, but also because of the challenges the UI has faced the past year from the flood and a frigid economic climate.

Officials attribute this year’s rise and the trend of funding increases over the past 20 years to efforts by UI faculty.

“Our faculty continue to be the among the best in the country,” said Jordan Cohen, the UI interim vice president for Research, lauding efforts by UI researchers to seek out more sources as well as bigger slices of funding. “They continue to produce relevant ideas, and internally, we try do as much as we can to help them succeed.”

Willard agreed, noting that the UI has ranked in the top 10 for number of awards received from external sources despite having one of the smallest faculties in Big Ten public schools.
He also cited higher powers for the rise in funding this year.

One of them is President Obama, whose stimulus bill set aside money for research in the science and biomedical fields, providing an unprecedented opportunity for scientists to work on innovative research.

Willard said the UI has benefited from the national attention, receiving $5 million from the recovery fund this year.

He expects the number to grow in the next 18 months as the bill is implemented, but progress after that point is still unclear.

“The view is optimistic, and both Congress and the president made commitments [to research],” he said. “But what Congress will do in future years, we’ll see.”

Cohen echoed Willard.

“We anticipate external funding will be stable and continue to grow,” Cohen said. “But I wouldn’t say I expect a large jump next year.”

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