Research spending for the five-campus UMass system has reached record levels, surpassing the $500 million mark for the third straight year, according to President Robert L. Caret.
Preliminary data compiled by the system’s Office of Institutional Research shows that research and development expenditures climbed to $597.5 million in Fiscal Year 2012 from $586.7 million in FY11, representing a 1.8 percent increase. The Amherst campus ranked second in the system with $194.8 million in research spending.
“We were pleased that in this fiscal environment we continued to grow our research enterprise, which is critically important to the vitality and future of the Commonwealth and the global economy,” Caret said after the new figures were presented at a meeting of the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Science, Technology and Research.
“We realize that the halcyon days of 2009 when the federal government invested heavily in research and development may be over. But with the threat of sequestration hanging over us—if President Obama and Congress are unable to reach a deal to avert automatic spending cuts to defense and domestic discretionary programs—our worry going forward is that this growth will be substantially slowed, which would have devastating consequences for the Commonwealth and the country as a whole,” he said.
Federal research dollars account for about three-quarters of all UMass research spending, much of it provided by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense. Under sequestration, federal agencies would be subject to as much as an 8 percent reduction in funding, hampering their ability to fund critical scientific research. If this occurs, Caret said UMass stands to lose up to $32 million in federal research funding.
“As a world-class research university, faculty and students on all five of our campuses are engaged in scientific discovery that impacts the lives of the people in this state and around the globe,” Caret said. “Their research and rate of discovery will definitely be affected if these cuts take place, so our great hope is for a resolution to the federal budget impasse.”
UMass has been hugely successful in recent years in attracting major federal research dollars, in some cases leveraging state R& D matching grants to pursue national research funding to create national centers like those for nano-manufacturing on the Amherst and Lowell campuses. Most of its funded research has been in science and engineering, particularly in the medical and biological fields. The research has included developing new radar systems to provide earlier warnings of severe weather events, engaging in partnerships to reduce disparities in cancer incidents, efforts aimed at sustaining fishery habitats, developing new materials to enhance the performance of medical devices, and spearheading programs to expedite the translation of laboratory discoveries into new products and therapeutics for patients.
The system’s research and development expenditures soared from $435.2 million in FY08 to $489 million in FY09, a 12.4 percent gain. R&D spending crossed the $500 million threshold in FY10, growing that year to $542.6 million, an 11 percent gain from FY09. Between FY10 to FY11, research spending grew by 8.1 percent to $586.7 million.
Based on the preliminary results for FY 2012, the $597.5 million in research spending for the rest of the system broke down as follows:
Boston: $60.1 million
Dartmouth: $22.7 million
Lowell: $60.6 million
Worcester: $256.1 million
Central Office: $3.1 million
Last year a report by the Office of Institutional Research found that among Massachusetts colleges and universities UMass ranked third in research and development expenditures, behind only MIT and Harvard.
“We owe our success in research and development to the pioneering work of the faculty and students, the leadership of the chancellors and their teams, and the encouragement and guidance of the Board of Trustees,” Caret said.