University receives Carnegie Foundation research accolade

A prestigious research organization named GW a school with “very high research activity,” an achievement for the University, which has placed an increased emphasis on research since hiring President Steven Knapp.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching – a nonprofit research foundation dedicated to supporting education – placed GW as one of the top schools in the country for research.

Director of the program Chun-Mei Zhao said GW earned its classification for doubling non-science research, increasing science research funding by one-third and doubling the number of research staff since 2005.

Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa – who was hired in an effort to raise GW’s research profile – said the Carnegie classification is proof that GW is creating a community that values research.

“It is a recognition by an outside, reputable, respected organization that says GW is at a place which is among the premier research institutions in the country,” Chalupa said.

Last April, Chalupa said the University is attempting to catch up with GW’s market basket schools – the institutions GW most heavily competes with – to be a top-tier research center. Chalupa shared his goal of making GW a a top-80 research university in 5 years – a lofty goal, as the universities in the top 80 are continually working to improve their standings.

“We, in the next decade, are going to be one of the country’s – and therefore one of the world’s – premier research institutions,” Chalupa said. “We’re not there yet, but we are moving in that direction.”

Other schools that Carnegie listed in the “very high research activity” category include a majority of the Ivy League schools, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University and some of the largest state schools in the country.

The Carnegie Foundation compiles the report by comparing the funding for research and development in the science and technology fields, as well as in the non-science fields. The number of doctoral degrees awarded in various fields is also included in the measure.

Zhao cautioned, however, that the classification system does not indicate the quality of the research the University is conducting.

“For the research categories, George Washington moved from one category to another, that just describes that there is more research going on,” Zhao said. “That doesn’t really say [the research] is higher quality. It’s not a ranking.”

Chalupa said the University is fostering a culture of research, attributing the improvement in the Carnegie classification to the faculty’s efforts.

Improving the University’s research status has been one of Knapp’s focuses since he came from Johns Hopkins University – one of the country’s premier research institutions – in 2007. The Innovation Task force was launched in part to provide additional funds to research. The Science and Engineering Complex – a project which was in the works before Knapp’s tenure – is expected to improve research, as it will provide a physical space the University hopes will be used for top-tier studies.

“It’s a sign to anybody considering coming here that these guys are in the big leagues… but it won’t be the deciding factor,” Chalupa said. “The building of the Science and Engineering Complex is much more important.”

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