With A $900 Million Investment, UW-Madison Steps Up In Research Rankings

Across all academic fields, the UW-Madison now conducts more than $900 million worth of research annually, according to new statistics released by the National Science Foundation .UW-Madison, with science and engineering research expenditures totaling $832 million for fiscal 2006, has claimed the number two spot, climbing from number three in the country and surpassing the combined campuses of the University of Michigan, which held the number two spot in fiscal 2005.

In addition, the new report identifies UW-Madison as the leading U.S. university in terms of research outside of science and engineering, with $73 million spent on research in fiscal 2006 in the areas of education, business and the humanities. In that measure, Wisconsin outpaced Harvard, Purdue, and the University of Texas to claim the top spot on the NSF list.

Johns Hopkins, with science and engineering research expenditures of $1.5 billion, remains at the top of the list, although that figure includes $709 million for work at the Applied Physics Laboratory, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins that focuses on defense and military related research, much of it classified.

“We are pleased that in these difficult times we have, so far, managed to maintain our strong research competitiveness,” says UW-Madison Chancellor John D. Wiley. “It is important to point out this doesn’t happen through any kind of entitlement. It takes an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work to bring in $905 million in one year. It amounts to an average of $440,000 per UW-Madison faculty member.”

Research expenditures, according to the new NSF report, include money obtained from all sources, including federal, state and private funders of research. UW-Madison’s science and engineering research expenditures climbed $34 million from fiscal 2005.

The growth at UW-Madison, according to Graduate School Dean Martin Cadwallader, comes at a time of flat federal budgets and sharpened competition among universities. The federal government is far and away the largest source of funds for research and development in all fields.

Cadwallader says UW-Madison’s high ranking is heavily dependent on a few very large collaborative grants, which are among the most competitive and difficult to obtain.

“Maintaining our position will require increased emphasis on recruiting and retaining top faculty, staff and students in a fiercely competitive market,” says Cadwallader, the university’s chief research officer. “Obviously, faculty who can bring in three or more times their salary annually are in very high demand.”

Cadwallader notes that of UW-Madison’s 16,255 employees, 8,548, or 53 percent, are paid from funds other than state tax dollars or student tuition. “That is, primarily, a result of the research dollars our faculty return to Wisconsin,” Cadwallader explains. “UW-Madison is, in effect, a high-tech business directly responsible for those 8,548 jobs, not to mention at least that many jobs in the Wisconsin economy supported by our research expenditures.”

Wiley noted that UW-Madison has ranked in the top five of all research institutions, totaling more than 600 in the united States, for as long as NSF has been tabulating and publishing research expenditure data. “This is mainly attributable to the extraordinary quality and competitiveness of our faculty, staff and graduate students,” he says. “Last year, our faculty and staff sent off more than 3,700 research proposals. One complete printed set of those submissions would form a stack taller than the state Capitol.

“These are the same faculty who are educating 40,000 students and producing more than 9,000 bachelors and advanced degrees per year. If there’s a better return-on-investment anywhere, I don’t know what it would be.”

Terry Devitt, UW Communications