UI reaches highest level of external research funding in history

External funding for research at the UI reached $588.8 million in fiscal 2019. UI officials say funding is becoming increasingly competitive among researchers as federal and private sources of funding dwindle.

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UI reaches highest level of external research funding in history

The Old Capital from the roof of UIHC in Iowa City, Iowa on March 25, 2019.

The Old Capital from the roof of UIHC in Iowa City, Iowa on March 25, 2019.

Roman Slabach

The Old Capital from the roof of UIHC in Iowa City, Iowa on March 25, 2019.

Roman Slabach

Roman Slabach

The Old Capital from the roof of UIHC in Iowa City, Iowa on March 25, 2019.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

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External funding at the University of Iowa reached an unprecedented $588.8 million in fiscal 2019, amid increased competition among research institutions for increasingly limited funding.

Although the Iowa Legislature has regularly decreased state appropriations for higher education, Stephen Pradarelli, the director of strategic communication for the Office of the Vice President of Research, said the bulk of funding for research comes from federal sources.

Pradarelli noted that the work of faculty has brought more funding to the UI.

“We give the credit to the researchers and scholars who are submitting more applications to places like NASA to try to get more research support — they really deserve the credit for the research numbers,” he said.

Vice President for Research Marty Scholtz said UI faculty compete with researchers from around the world to win funding for their work.

“I think the external-funding numbers represent a huge competitive commitment that our faculty have won,” he said. “Almost all the external funding comes from competitive awards and grants. Our faculty compete with people all over the world who receive them. It’s a great reflection upon the fact that our faculty and researchers are world-renowned and working on problems of global impact.”

RELATED: UI research team receives largest research award in UI history 

Scholtz said external funding benefits students as well as faculty.

“One of the things that having external support like this is provides is tremendous opportunities, not only for the faculty to explore their interests and scholarship, but also for students to participate in these activities,” he said. “For students to participate in creative activities that occur — not only at Iowa — but it’s a reflection of the best universities,”

The UI received large grants from the National Institutes of Health at $117 million, the largest single funder of research at the UI.

The UI also received increases in funding from the Defense Department and the National Science Foundation. Pradarelli said the diversification of funding sources is a positive change.

“We have a big College of Medicine and a health-care campusm” he said. “The National Institutes of Health are a big supporter of research on campus, so it’s good to see a broader portfolio of support across different agencies.”

Scholtz said funding is becoming increasingly scarce from federal and private sources, driving up the level of competition for researchers.

“The overall trend over the last many years is that these funds are harder and harder to get from the federal government and from private philanthropy and private foundations,” he said. “It’s becoming much more competitive than it was five years ago, even 10 years ago, and there are different approaches the faculty have to take to win these awards. They have to exhibit to the people giving the money that they are the best people to solve these particular problems. The fact that our faculty continue to win these is really a testament to their stature in their fields.”

The UI ranked 49th in 2017 in level of funding from the National Science Foundation, among the 900 ranked institutions.

The UI was ranked 39th in funding from the NIH in 2018.

In a press release, the Research Office indicated that the funding for fiscal 2019 does not include a $115 million grant UI physics Professor Craig Kletzing received from NASA, the largest single-project grant in UI history.

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