Research funding tops $100 million for fourth year

At a record $146 million, research funding jumped more than 9 percent over last year, pushing Emory over the $100 million mark for the fourth consecutive year. The University's continued success comes at a time when obtaining sponsorship is becoming increasingly difficult.

"We are one of the few schools seeing this kind of growth," said Nancy Wilkinson, assistant vice president for research, sponsored programs. "Many of my colleagues report that their funding is either stagnant or declining." Wilkinson attributes Emory's success to its leadership, outstanding faculty and commitment to research.

The $146 million granted to the University was the result of 1,866 awards, up 350 from last year, ranging from $20 to $5 million. Of the total, grants to the medical school accounted for almost $99 million (68 percent); Yerkes Primate Center $14.3 million (nearly 10 percent); the School of Public Health $18.1 million (12 percent); and Emory College $12.7 million (nearly 9 percent).

The college departments generating the highest levels of support were chemistry ($5 million), biology ($2.65 million), psychology ($1.97 million) and mathematics and computer science ($1.1 million). Departments generating the highest levels of support for the School of Medicine were the Departments of Medicine ($23.35 million), Pediatrics ($9.69 million), Psychiatry ($8.7 million), Pathology ($7.1 million) and Neurology ($7 million).

Areas showing significant increases in funding include the School of Public Health with a 44 percent increase; the medical school with a 12 percent increase and Oxford College with a 54 percent increase (from $17,799 to $27,494). There were significant declines in some areas, however, including the School of Nursing, down 57 percent; and the Graduate School, down 44 percent.

"Funding in specific areas varies from year to year," said Wilkinson, "and it's difficult to determine why, whether it's related to the number of proposals submitted or the number of grants available or the dollar amount of available grants in a particular year."

It is equally difficult to explain the success of the medical school year after year or the phenomenal success of the School of Public Health. "So many factors are at play," Wilkinson said, "but the university's leadership and faculty are at the top. And sometimes timing plays a major role, as with the School of Public Health."

Federal funding of sponsored research is up $1.6 million, a significant increase considering federal cutbacks. Of the $146 million, $98.1 million, or 67 percent, is from federal sources. Corporate funding accounts for $16.4 million, up from $12.74 million last year, and private funding at $13 million, up from $10.4 million last year.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were up from slightly more than $76 million last year to $77.5 million this year, but grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) were down from last year's $5.26 million to $4.32 million. Both are highly competitive sources of federal funding.

Commenting on the overall increase of $1.6 million in federal dollars, Steven Moye, associate vice president for governmental and community affairs, said, "The situation had looked bleak, so we are happy that the government continued to maintain its commitment to and partnership with universities in support of American health and economic well being."

Moye added, however, that the long-term outlook for NIH and NSF support, which supplies the bulk of Emory's funding, is troubling. Budget proposals from both President Clinton and Congress call for 19.1 percent and 22.8 percent cuts, respectively, in non-defense research and development dollars by the year 2002. "Such cutbacks could put a strain on the University for alternative sources of funding," said Moye.

Of the $146 million in total research support, $111.4 million and $34.5 million were received as direct and indirect costs, respectively. Indirect costs represented 23.6 percent of the total dollars awarded.

Despite this year's 9 percent increase, the percentage of increase is down slightly from last year's 11.5. Citing a study noting the overall decline in funding for sponsored research, Wilkinson noted that obtaining funds for Emory will become more difficult in the future, witnessed by the problems that other schools are already having. "We are going to need all the things we have going for us now--leadership, a commitment to research and our outstanding faculty--working even harder in the future."

--Bob Keaton

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