Internal research spending doubles

The amount of internal funds the University devoted to research doubled in the last year, a financial surge concentrated in non-science subjects.

GW committed $2.1 million to internal research projects in fiscal year 2011 – up from $1.1 million in fiscal year 2010 – in a boost that raised spending levels across disciplines as the University strives to become a top-tier research institution, according to data from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The Medical Center received the highest total funds for 2011, at $918,000 – a number that includes a $450,500-contribution from the Medical Faculty Associates and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences toward internal competitions among those faculty members to support medical research.

Spending on the social sciences experienced the largest boom in funding, with an increase of $130,000 this year. Internal expenditures on research in the humanities increased by 20 percent over the last year.

Though factors influencing the shift are difficult to identify, Gina Lohr, special assistant to the vice president for research, said the change may represent an increase in applicants from those topic areas or more qualified profiles among their proposals.

Other departments saw more modest increases in spending, a trend Lohr attributes to stronger reliance on funding sources from outside the University.

Because members of the Office of the Vice President for Research are traveling this week, University spokeswoman Jill Sankey was unable to provide a full breakdown of internal spending for 2010.

The data represent funds administered by the research office on an application basis to faculty across the University. Individual schools also hold their own competitions that are not reflected in the figures.

The jump in non-science spending comes at a time when federal agencies are limiting spending on the arts and the humanities.

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 shows a 13-percent drop in support for both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

While federal resources covered about 90 percent of the University’s research and development expenditures for fiscal year 2009, internal funding accounted for just 6 percent, according to data from the National Science Foundation.

The University hired its first assistant vice president for industry research late last month, marking a heightened effort to bring in new resources amid a shrinking federal funding pool. As head of an initiative to link faculty and corporations, alumnus Tom Russo will identify opportunities for on-campus studies to be commercialized.

University President Steven Knapp has championed research as one of his top goals throughout his tenure, having devoted $5.4 million to support research start-ups and hiring an administrator to oversee research in 2008.

While research office administrators maintain that it is nearly impossible to predict what results GW’s research will yield, some faculty are already making strides in groundbreaking studies.

Jason Zara, a professor of engineering and applied science, was awarded a patent by the federal government for a new technology that could be a key player in diagnosing and treating certain types of cancer in their early stages, pending clinical trials.

This article was updated on Nov. 3, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that GW’s spending on social sciences research doubled to reach $130,000. The figure doubled to be $130,000 higher than its previous level.

Andrea Vittorio contributed to this report.

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