UW-Madison retains top five R&D ranking
Aug. 11, 2006
The University of Wisconsin-Madison remains the fourth largest research university in the country as measured by the amount of money spent on research and development, according to statistics released this week by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
The ranking, which reflects research expenditures for 2004 (the most recent available statistics), shows that UW-Madison spent nearly $764 million on research in the sciences, engineering, the social sciences and arts and humanities. That figure is up $43 million from 2003, when UW-Madison also ranked fourth nationally.
The top three universities for 2004, according to the NSF report, are Johns Hopkins University, $1.3 billion; the University of California, Los Angeles, $773 million; and the University of Michigan, $769 million. (The figure for Johns Hopkins includes $670 million for the Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of Johns Hopkins that focuses on defense and military-related research, much of it classified. UW-Madison does not accept grants for classified research.)
UW-Madison's ranking, according to Graduate School Dean Martin Cadwallader, is a direct reflection of the efforts of university faculty and staff and their ability to compete successfully in an increasingly difficult funding climate.
"Research dollars are hard to come by. The playing field is as crowded as ever, and the level of competition only gets keener every year," says Cadwallader, the university's chief research officer. "The fact that we rank so highly speaks to the hard work and creativity of our faculty, staff and students scrambling for those dollars. The competition is fierce."
The new NSF ranking reflects total expenditures on research and includes all sources of support — state, federal and private.
Of the $764 million in research dollars spent by UW-Madison in 2004, about $434.5 million came from the federal government, placing UW-Madison eighth among all U.S. universities on the list of federally funded research expenditures.
Wisconsin ranked first among universities in nonfederal research support, attracting $329.5 million from nonfederal sources. Of that, state and local governments funded research to a level of about $35.9 million, industry provided $17.9 million, private gifts and grants accounted for $210.2 million, and other sources provided $65.5 million in 2004.
Cadwallader explains that other universities are investing more in their faculties and infrastructure in an effort to capture a larger portion of the finite research resources available. Federal research budgets, he notes, are static or are growing only marginally with respect to inflation.
"The number of institutions that want to be like us is growing, but the pool of resources is not matching that level of interest. The result is that faculty must write more and better proposals in order to maintain their research budgets," he says.
Virtually all research conducted on university campuses depends on the ability of individual faculty and staff to write competitive proposals to fund work conducted in their laboratories. Over time, the number of successful proposals has diminished relative to the number of proposals submitted. For example, only one in five proposals submitted to the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency that funds the most research at UW-Madison, is successful, on average.
On the UW-Madison campus, the bulk of research dollars are spent in the life sciences, with $473.7 million spent on biology and related disciplines. Engineering research drew $94.9 million to the UW-Madison campus in 2004, and research in the environmental sciences garnered $54.1 million. The physical sciences attracted $51.9 million, and work in the social sciences drew $41.7 million, while research in psychology was funded at a level of $29.3 million, and research in the mathematical and computational sciences was funded at a level of $18.3 million.