Chalupa: University playing catch-up on research

Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa hopes to make GW a top 80 research university in five years, he said last week.

GW – which was listed 92nd in last year’s National Science Foundation rankings of research and grant money issued from the federal government – is playing catch-up to its peer institutions, Chalupa said.

“Anybody in front of us, we are trying to catch and surpass,” Chalupa said. “I will guarantee you this: In 10 years we are going to be much, much higher ranked then we are now. Remember: Excellence breeds excellence.”

He added, “It’s not going to happen fast. It’s going to require an incredible investment of money and resources and space.”

While the University is focusing on research, making a 12-spot jump will be difficult because universities ahead of GW bring in more money and have a culture of research in place to foster development, Chalupa said.

“Competition is huge and nobody is standing still,” he said.

Part of the reason GW lags behind in resources is because nobody wants to give to institutions that are not national leaders in research, effectively creating a cyclical problem for the University, Chalupa said.

But GW is making changes, he said. The recent hiring of Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Michael Morsberger will help, Chalupa said, because Morsberger worked in fundraising at Duke University, a research powerhouse. Chalupa said his office would also be hiring a development person for the first time.

If GW breaks into the top 80 research schools, Chalupa expects new resources to become available, citing the University of California at Irvine as an example. After two UCI researchers won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1995, funding increased 60 percent.

“What people don’t realize is that as research becomes more prominent, it becomes easier to raise money,” Chalupa said. “People want to give money to prestigious institutions. The top research institutions get the most money.

GW’s market basket schools, which Chalupa said included Washington University in St. Louis, New York University and Duke, are investing money into research in “big ways.” This poses a challenge for GW, as the University does not have the endowment or fundraising reserves to fund across-the-board research. For example, for every research dollar GW received from federal money, Johns Hopkins received $15, according to the NSF survey.

Senior Vice Provost for Research at NYU Paul Horn said NYU receives more than $300 million a year from various sources to conduct research in numerous fields.

GW received $161 million in funding from external sources in support of faculty research last year, Chaulpa said.

Horn said his school – ranked 45th in the NSF survey – is “expanding its focus on science, engineering and research.” He added that for NYU, research is “an integral part of what we do.”

“It allows our students to interact with researchers at the forefront of their fields and actually participate in leading edge research. This is true in all fields, not just in the hard sciences and engineering,” he said.

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