KU’s externally funded research during 2011-12, by funding source:
Federal government: $223.4 million (81.2 percent)
Private industry: $8.4 million (3.1 percent)
State and local government: $7.9 million (2.9 percent)
Not-for-profit groups and other sources: $35.4 million (12.9 percent)
Source: Kansas University. Totals and percentages are rounded off.
KU’s total externally funded research in the last five years for which numbers are available:
2011-12: $275.2 million
2010-11: $255.3 million
2009-10: $224.6 million
2008-09: $207.1 million
2007-08: $197.8 million
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Kansas University’s external research funding reached $275.2 million in 2011-12, KU announced today, increasing for the fifth straight year and marking a new record.
But officials also warned that streak might not last much longer. That’s not because of a lack of faith in KU’s researchers, but because the federal budget cuts enacted this spring might make research funds much more scarce in coming years.
It will take about a year for all the bills to be paid and expenses to be accounted for, but KU will likely set another research funding record for the 2012-13 year that just ended, said Steve Warren, KU’s vice chancellor for research and graduate studies. But it will face long odds to increase its funding in the coming year.
“It’s sort of like we’ll be defying gravity,” Warren said.
The mandatory federal budget cuts of about 5 percent that went into effect this March — sometimes called the “sequester” — is already affecting the pipeline of funding for the research done by KU faculty.
Federal money makes up the bulk of KU’s external research dollars every year, accounting for $223.4 million in the 2011-12 year.
The National Institutes of Health, which fund the bulk of the research at the KU Medical Center, are the university’s biggest single source of federal funding, usually followed by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.
Different agencies are handling their budget cuts in different ways, with some cutting back the amounts of grants they’ve already awarded and others reducing their steady flow of new grants to a slow drip.
But one way or another, there will be less federal money flowing to research projects in the coming year.
“We will undoubtedly receive fewer funded research awards than we have in the past, unless we are really lucky,” Warren said.
KU’s School of Education is one part of the university already feeling the effects. The U.S. Department of Education, a big source of funding for the school’s researchers, is dealing with the sequester partly by awarding almost no new research grants.
Rick Ginsberg, dean of the School of Education, said his faculty were already finding it much more difficult to win new research grants, from the Department of Education and other agencies.
“The new awards likely are going to go down,” Ginsberg said, “and then the long-term prognosis, unless they somehow fix the sequester, is going to be very, very scary for the research community.”
Federal research funding is one metric KU leaders have identified as a measure of the university’s progress in their “Bold Aspirations” strategic plan. And it increased by more than $80 million from 2007 to 2012.
External funding levels serve as a measure of the productivity of KU’s researchers, as well as their reputation among their colleagues.
“As a research university, a lot of our value to the state and the world is our ability to generate new knowledge out of that science,” Warren said.