Washington State University’s continued growth of total research and development (R&D) expenditures increased to $368.3 million in fiscal year 2022 (FY2022), a 3% increase from FY2021, as reported by the National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development (NSF-HERD) Research Expenditure Rankings.
As a result, WSU ranked 77th overall out of 637 institutions in R&D expenditures for FY2022, an improvement of one spot in the rankings from FY2021. In comparison to strategic plan peers, WSU was ninth out of 14 in total R&D expenditures.
“WSU is a top research university dedicated to advancing research and innovation and improving the quality of life worldwide. Our steady growth in total R&D is a testament to the sustained and impressive commitment of our WSU research community throughout the system,” said WSU System President Kirk Schulz.
Research expenditures, or the spending of federal and non-federal research funds, is the most consistent measure of the scale and impact of a university’s research portfolio. Expenditures are the money spent by WSU or other universities to advance knowledge and its use in devising new applications and/or extending new discoveries and creative activities. NSF HERD reports on the expenditure of federal and state funding, as well as business, industry, foundation, and institutional funding across a wide range of disciplines.
The rankings, released in November 2023, are the annual census of U.S. colleges and universities that spend at least $150,000 in separately accounted-for R&D in the fiscal year. The survey collects information on R&D expenditures by field of research and source of funds. Additionally, the survey gathers information on types of research, expenses, and headcounts of R&D personnel.
WSU sees growth in other R&D funding areas
The rankings also highlight other areas of success for WSU research. For the second year in a row, WSU ranked second overall in U.S. Department of Agriculture R&D funding with $52.1 million in expenditures.
Additionally, WSU’s R&D expenditures per tenure and tenure-track full-time faculty place WSU fifth out of 14 among strategic plan peers with a total of $417,300 per faculty member in FY2022, up from $413,700 in FY2021.
WSU-led research continues to benefit the state and the nation across a broad range of disciplines, with strengths in human and community health, precision agriculture, clean energy, and climate change. WSU research and creative activities continue to have positive impacts and shape key discussions nationwide, from maternal and infant health to the effects of political misinformation.
“The growth of our research enterprise is thanks to every scholar across the system. We have increased the number of multidisciplinary grants awarded, and the average award has steadily increased as well, highlighting the collaboration and breadth of our research community,” said WSU Provost and WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton.
Planning for the future
In an effort to continue growing WSU’s research expenditures, the Office of Research is working with deans and other WSU leaders to develop a multi-year, system-wide plan to advance research and creative activity to meet the WSU system strategic goal of moving to 75th in the HERD rankings.
“While we are excited to see our total R&D expenditures climb, we are aware that increasing WSU’s NSF-HERD rankings will require implementation of a multi-year plan to enhance research competitiveness,” said Michael Wolcott, Regents Professor and interim vice president for research at WSU. “The plan will build on several positive accomplishments, including record research expenditures per tenured and tenure-track faculty members and a tripling of large awards greater than $3 million since FY2017.”
The Office of Research is forming a system-wide working group to develop key strategies including:
- growing the number of research-active faculty
- improving faculty support and research infrastructure
- increasing diversity within the WSU research community
- pursuing targeted research funding opportunities in collaboration with colleges, campuses, and the Office of External Affairs and Government Relations
- executing strategic internal competitions to catalyze engagement and increase proposals and awards
“While we know that large multidisciplinary grants contribute to total R&D expenditures, every faculty member plays an integral role in growing total R&D expenditures,” Wolcott said. “The success of our growth includes all types of research across disciplines and in collaboration with our community partners. Growing the research enterprise would not be made possible without this collective effort.”