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College helps KU research set record, though federal cuts pose challenge

Monday, July 08, 2013

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas generated a record $275.2 million in externally sponsored research expenditures in 2011-12, demonstrating how KU’s strength as a research university is an asset for the state.

KU conducts more research than all other universities in Kansas combined. Of the $275.2 million received in 2011-12 to support research projects at all KU campuses, approximately $250 million came from the federal government and other sources outside of Kansas. 

“KU bolsters the state’s economy in a range of ways,” said Steve Warren, vice chancellor for research and graduate studies. “Not only are jobs directly created by this research, but we make discoveries that generate prosperity and well-being for people across the state.” 

The total for 2012 was nearly $20 million more than in 2011, and double what it was in 2000.  “Researchers at all KU campuses are extremely active, competitive and successful in obtaining external support for their work. That reflects a huge return on the state’s investment in talented faculty,” said Warren.

While the economic benefit of KU research in Kansas is clear, the future of federal funding for research is less certain.  Last spring, an automatic 5 percent cut in federal spending went into effect. The full impact of the ongoing budget sequester was not felt immediately, but KU and other U.S. research universities are bracing for what is ahead.

“Unless the sequester is turned off soon,” said Paul Terranova, vice chancellor for research at the KU Medical Center, “research expenditures will almost certainly be lower this time next year.  That’s a challenge for our researchers, of course, and we have to deal with it.  But I’m far more concerned about the discoveries in human health, education, energy and many other fields that won’t be made if the sequester is made permanent.” 

Warren and Terranova strongly encourage KU researchers to continue to pursue federal funding opportunities, as well as grants from foundations and industry. 

“The worst thing you could do in this uncertain environment,” said Warren, “is to become discouraged and stop seeking research support.  The sequester has reduced agency budgets, but the federal government remains the leading source of funding, and we have to pursue it aggressively.”