The University of Michigan confirmed its unwavering support of research with the announcement of a record $1.48 billion in total research expenditures for the 2017 fiscal year ending on June 30. The Office of Research published this data in their annual report, which details the current research landscape at the University.
This announcement follows the No. 1 ranking in research volume the University recently received from the National Science Foundation for the seventh year in a row.
Though research expenditures reached a record high, the FY 2017 brought the challenge of declining total federal support for research. In response, the Office of Research partnered with various on-campus organizations to address the gaps in federal support and identify new avenues for funding.
In an email interview, Jack Hu, vice president for research, continued investment in research sets the Unversity apart from other public institutions.
“The $1.48 billion research expenditures continues to place UM as the top public research university and second among all universities in the country in terms of volume of research,” Hu wrote. “Since most of this funding is through peer-reviewed competitive grants, it reflects the quality and competitiveness of our faculty.”
The Business Engagement Center worked with UMOR to strengthen industry relationships with over 1,200 companies contributing to an overall 24.7 percent growth in industry-sponsored research expenditures, direct from corporations. UMOR has also explored innovative research funding programs such as MCubed, which encourages cross-campus faculty collaboration and grants seed money for research projects. MCubed has contributed $94 million in research funding since being established in 2012.
These efforts to diversify funding have led to the 14.1 percent growth in the non-federal sponsors bracket of total research expenditures. In the report, UMOR credits these alternative funding sources as the reason why the University has been able to sustain growth in research volume despite declining federal support.
“Federal support for research has on a decline or stagnant and future support is uncertain,” Hu wrote. “We must continue to work to diversify sources of research funding. Industry, foundations and philanthropic gifts represent a number of important opportunities.”
This breadth of funding has allowed the University to continue to provide research opportunities at all levels of study. LSA freshman Monica Olszewski is involved in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program and has spent the semester researching nanoplastics and the environment. Olszewski expressed gratitude for the opportunity to engage with research during her first semester on campus.
“I walked into my chem lab not knowing what a microbe pipette was, but being in the lab now I know all the tools that I need, research methods, how to collect data, the proper tools I need to analyze that data and actually make educated conclusions in the end,” Olszewski said. “They really taught me a lot, more than I ever expected to learn in the last few months.”
LSA senior Olivia Kaiserlian, a research assistant in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study — which studies the relationship between brain development and substance abuse — said through her involvement in research she has come to appreciate the role of research at the University.
“At a University as resourceful as this we can really begin something bigger by starting small and even though we are just students we can really learn from (research),” Kaiserlian said. “I think it is great that (the government) put time and money into us, which we can return back to them once we come full circle.”