The Daily Gamecock

USC takes in record research funds

University: $227 million total  important in budget crisis

USC faculty earned $226.9 million in research dollars during fiscal year 2011, shattering its previous record for research funding, according to a university announcement Tuesday.

The university topped last year’s record of $218.8 million by 3.7 percent, and USC has now increased its annual research intake every year except one since 1983.

The record is especially important in challenging budget times, when public universities must rely more on grants due to slashed state funding.  It also comes after federal stimulus dollars, which provided millions for research, ended in 2010.

“The stimulus funds have been over now for a year, so this record reflects an increased effectiveness in faculty research even in times of federal funding restraints,” President Harris Pastides said. “The year before last we thought that maybe the stimulus funding contributed partially to the record, but this year it’s clear it’s the quality of the proposals being submitted and the faculty knowing where the money is.”

Research funding from the National Institutes of Health increased by 9.2 percent to $39.3 million, funding from the U.S. Defense Department increased 20 percent to $18 million and funding from the U.S. Energy Department increased by 10 percent to $13.6 million.

Several departments saw significant increases in funding. The College of Education saw a 44 percent increase since July 1, 2010, the College of Pharmacy saw a 43 percent increase, the College of Engineering and Computing saw an 18 percent increase and the College of Mass Communication and Information Studies saw a 14 percent increase.

Pastides said it was “fair to say” that USC had abandoned its past “Cathedrals of Excellence” budgeting plan, in which money was focused narrowly only on USC’s best programs.

“The problem with cathedrals is that the people not living in cathedrals might think they’re living in a ghetto,” Pastides said. “We think the strongest approach to research is one that is interdisciplinary and where we fuel faculty with the best ideas rather than only faculty from a small number of colleges. It seems like a more comprehensive series of awards that combined to make the record.”

That didn’t mean that USC’s best-ranked programs, such as the College of Education, didn’t get their fair share of money. Lemuel Watson, dean of the College, said much of his department’s funding will go into conducting research in the local community for its benefit.

“Most of our grants deal with schools, colleges, students and partnerships,” Watson said.

Numbers provided by the College of Education showed that 85 percent of grants and contracts for the department came from the federal government, followed by the 8 percent provided by the state.

USC’s regional Aiken campus also saw an overall 38 percent increase in funding, from $1.46 million to $2.01 million.  

Among the grants awarded in the past year include $4.4 million from the Energy Department to College of Engineering and Computing to develop fuel cell catalysts for the auto industry.

The National Institutes of Health gave money to four different departments, including $2.8 million to the College of Social Work to research software aimed at understanding the link between diet and disease in children.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching describes USC as a site of “very high research activity.” USC is one of only 63 institutions nationwide, and the only in the state, with the same level of classification.

“Maintaining our standing is very important,” Pastides said. “I am really particularly proud of our faculty that in times of great economic pressure they keep submitting and receiving their proposals. It is very humbling for me and, I hope, the student body.”


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