Emory Report

October 19, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 8

Sponsored research funding's modest growth may be due in part to space shortage

University researchers brought in a record-breaking $164.9 million during the 1998 fiscal year, a 5 percent increase over last year. "In the past 11 years, our sponsored research base has increased more than 300 percent going from $54 million in 1987 to $164.9 million," said Nancy Wilkinson, director of sponsored programs.

"We've had surges of growth in the past that have been reflective of our efforts to deliberately grow our research base. A number of peer institutions have not experienced the rate of growth that we've been fortunate to experience in the past five years. But this is a modest rate of growth for us, and it's unlikely we can continue to grow at higher rates without new space to attract new faculty."

"If I had to pick any one factor for this modest growth, I'd have to correlate it with our space limitations," said Dennis Liotta, vice president for research. "But this is a temporary situation and will be resolved as soon as new buildings, such as Science 2000 for Emory College and the Cancer Center and new basic research building for Health Sciences, open in a couple of years. Right now the lack of space also hurts us in our recruiting efforts."

Health sciences administrators echoed concerns about space. "Space is a problem," said David Blake, associate director of the Health Sciences Center. "I've personally been involved in three cases where we could have recruited faculty who would have moved major grants here, but we didn't have the space for their labs."

"Our strategic plan for research identified that the School of Medicine was space locked, and in order to be in the top tier of research medical schools, we would have to have more space," said Blake. "It's also not just the volume of research, but the kind that brings about significant increases in funding; multi-investigator and program project grants can receive significant grants. That's why the cancer center we're building will be so important, because it will have multidiscipline teams submitting major funding requests."

Sources of funding for sponsored research remained fairly consistent between 1997 and 1998. This year, the federal government provided $117.6 million or 71 percent of that total, which was a 2.3 percent increase over 1998's total of $114.9 million, or 73 percent, of the total. Much of that federal funding came from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which awarded Emory $94.3 million or 57 percent of all federal dollars.

"In a couple of years with the new buildings we have planned and with NIH budgets expected to increase fairly dramatically, it's realistic to expect that we'll be able to pick up the pace and grow at earlier rates," said Wilkinson.

Corporate-sponsored funding also remained constant. It provided $18.5 million in 1998, or 11.2 percent of the total as compared to $18.4 million or 12 percent of the total in 1997. Private sources of funding grew 29 percent from $11.6 million or 7 percent of the total in 1997 to $15 million, or 9 percent of the total in 1998.

As in the past, health sciences led the way in research dollars with $154.4 million, securing 94 percent of the total. Grants to the medical school totaled $112.6 million in FY98, a 5 percent increase over the previous year.

Other highlights include the Rollins School at $19.9 million, up 17 percent from last year, and Yerkes at $20.4 million, up 20 percent.

Emory College received $9.8 million this year, compared to last year's $13.8 million. According to Steven Sanderson, vice president for arts and sciences and dean of Emory College, this year's total is at least in part related to lack of space to support research programs in the sciences and social sciences.

"Our new facilities for the physical sciences will allow us to recruit new faculty with sponsored research programs and to expand our research agenda in chemistry, physics, and mathematics and computer science. Other departments, including psychology and anthropology, will also benefit from related space expansion," said Sanderson. "With these opportunities in mind, I have just established a faculty science council, chaired by Lanny Liebeskind, Dobbs Professor of Organic Chemistry, that will help us focus our efforts and direct our research programs in new ways. Already in the current academic year we are seeing a growth in sponsored research support."

In FY98, Emory researchers requested $307.7 million in 1,915 proposals. While there were just 33 more proposals submitted than last year, the dollar amount requested increased 17 percent.

--Jan Gleason

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