Research funding, proposal numbers up, VPRI reports

University of Oregon

New statistics show that external research funding grew in fiscal year 2016, as did the number of proposals submitted by University of Oregon faculty.

David Conover, the recently hired vice president for research and innovation, shared the news with the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon during the regular summer meeting.

During the 2016 fiscal year ending June 30, the UO recorded $117 million in grants, contracts and other competitive awards from external funding sources, a 2 percent increase from the previous year’s tally of $114.6 million. This was fueled by a more than 64 percent increase in nonfederally funded research, a positive signal that research funding sources are continuing to grow and diversify.

At the same time, UO faculty and researchers were aggressive in pursuing funding for research efforts; 1,136 research proposals were submitted, requesting a total of $157.1 million in first-year funding, an 11.6 percent increase from 2015 and the highest submissions count recorded at the UO.

“These numbers are show positive growth for research activity at the University of Oregon, and they are a harbinger of good things to come as our faculty continue to aggressively pursue external funding that fuels scholarship and cutting-edge research on campus,” Conover said. “Research universities across the nation are critical to developing advancements in knowledge that can help create the next spinoff company or the next new technology that improves our quality of life. What these numbers tell me is that we are well-positioned to get a larger piece of that funding pie in the long term.”

Conover emphasized the importance of meeting the university’s goal of hiring more faculty in the translational sciences to boost industry research support, which is directly related to efforts to diversify UO’s research funding portfolio to include other sources of funding.

“Federal research funding has been generally flat over the last few years, making the competition for those funds increasingly intense,” Conover said. “Yet we continue to earn awards, with federal funding accounting for 84.3 percent of sponsored support in FY 2016.”

“As we continue to strive to increase our research profile, we will want to focus on attracting faculty in areas that are being emphasized by the federal funding agencies,” Conover said. “We’ll want to create a culture where our faculty are empowered to seek new and often interdisciplinary opportunities. That will mean continuing to build partnerships across the campus and with allied organizations — other universities, research institutes and other groups.”

In all, there were 989 active awards involving 373 active principal investigators examining everything from quantum simulations of molecular networks to Spanish Civil War-era women activists to bio-inspired retinal implants.

Other notable numbers included:

  • Federal awards, including federal flow-through, in support of UO sponsored activities totaled $98.6 million.
  • Funding from nonfederal sources — including industry, foundations and associations — increased by 64.2 percent from 2015.
  • Funding from the Department of Health and Human Services — which mostly includes the National Institutes of Health — accounted for 34 percent of UO research funding, and the National Science Foundation provided 17 percent of the funding. The Department of Education made up the largest slice of funding at 36 percent.

In other business, trustees:

  • Accepted President Michael H. Schill’s recommendation to dename Dunn Hall, which followed an extensive analysis by a team of historians and a public input process.
  • Approved renovations to Pacific and Oregon halls.
  • Received an overview of the 2016-17 tuition and tee settingvprocess.
  • Engaged in discussion about academic quality and student success initiatives.
  • Reviewed quarterly reports from finance, treasury operations, and audit.
  • Heard from faculty regarding two academic research clusters, the Center for Genome Function and Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention and Human Development.


—By Lewis Taylor, Research and Innovation