Ravell Call, Deseret News
LOGAN — The 2014 fiscal year was a banner year for research at Utah State University, with the school receiving more than $220 million in grants and other donations.
That total sets a new record for USU in terms of external financial support, which accounts for roughly one-third of the university's total operating budget.
"When we announce that we’ve had a record year of research funding, it means far more to us than numbers,” USU President Stan Albrecht said in a prepared statement. “It’s an expansion of our ability to accomplish our statewide land-grant mission.”
Anne McEntire, USU's director of communications for Research and Graduate Studies, said the $220 million in research funding was up from $185 million in 2013, which includes both private and federal funding sources.
She said many peer universities have yet to release their 2014 numbers, but in 2012 Utah State University was ranked among the top 50 public American research universities by the Arizona State University Center for Measuring University Performance.
"Our highest year was in 2011," she said. "We had $213 million, and lots of that was due to stimulus funding."
University of Utah spokeswoman Maria O'Mara said sponsored project funding at the U. totaled $388.5 million in fiscal year 2014.
Among the research conducted at USU this year were investigations into the auditing standards of the national banking industry, tests on infectious disease agents, assessments of the needs of at-risk students and the development of strategies to counteract fat intake and address the obesity epidemic.
McEntire said the various research programs at USU not only improve the quality of education for Utah students, but also provide opportunities for professional training.
"Last year, we were able to support almost 2,500 graduate and undergraduate students with employment based on these research funds," she said.
USU’s federal funding includes grants from the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture.
Mark McLellan, USU's vice president for research and dean of the School of Graduate Studies, attributed the succesful year to the efforts by faculty members to secure grants.
He said federal research funding has decreased in the years since the recession, and the increase in gifts to USU speaks to the quality of work being done at the university.
"We had quite a dramatic turnaround in terms of the aggressiveness that we, the faculty, went after federal dollars," he said. "Even though you’re in a diminishing availability of dollars, we have been even more successful."
McLellan said research funding is often cyclical, with this year's grants paying for next year's work. But even if funding levels fall next year, he expects USU to top $220 million in time.
"I don’t think we have at all hit our maximum," he said. "We have room to grow, and I would not be surprised to see more success in the future."
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