West Virginia University has reported a record $231 million in externally supported expenditures, which are primarily geared toward funding research. In this photo, WVU exercise physiology student Elijah Smith conducts lab work for the Summer Undergraduate Vision Research Fellowship Program. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University, the state’s flagship, land-grant R1 institution, reported a record $231 million in externally supported expenditures, which are mainly designated for research, for fiscal year 2023.
“This feat reinforces the University’s standing as a top research institution in the country and highlights our mission to provide hands-on learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students, which is very unique in the higher ed world,” President Gordon Gee said. “The numbers also amplify our purpose to serve not only West Virginia, but those beyond the state’s borders in confronting the world’s most pressing challenges.”
Research expenditures, which are funds spent to conduct research, soared by $32 million from last year’s figures of $199 million.
Further, research expenditures from the federal government broke $100 million for the first time, with $107 million for FY23.
Fred King, vice president for research, WVU (WVU Photo)
“Our faculty set a University record for external support from the federal government for research, teaching and service,” Vice President for Research Fred King said. “More than $100 million in funds supported the broad range of activity across our campuses.
“As West Virginia’s R1, land-grant university, WVU is committed to research that engages students at every level and contributes to the economic diversification and development of the state.”
The University receives research funding from a variety of sources including federal, state, industry and private donors. Funds are usually obtained through a competitive process, in which projects are evaluated for quality and impact before monies are allocated.
Federal expenditures made up 48% of external support. Just under half of that came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The National Science Foundation and Department of Energy combined supported nearly a quarter in the basic sciences and engineering. WVU is also among the top recipients of funding from NASA as a space grant and NASA-EPSCoR university.
King highlighted endeavors in rare earth element extraction from acid mine drainage, confronting the opioid epidemic, astrophysics, aerospace and robotics as prime examples of areas benefiting from research funding.
“We excel in areas ranging from astrophysics to robotics,” King said. “Our forensic science program is a world leader in the adaptation of cutting-edge science to serve the needs of law enforcement. We have developed world-class health sciences programs in neuroscience and cardiovascular research bringing innovations to caring for our most vulnerable citizens. And we are now embarking on a similar effort around cancer.”
The remaining expenditures came from state government at 21%, the WVU Foundation at 14%, business and industry at 8% and other external sources at 9%.
King noted these expenditures have grown steadily over the past five years, a sign that outside entities are willing to invest in WVU and its research capabilities. From 2018 to 2023, overall expenditures increased from $155 million to $231 million and federal expenditures rose from $76 million to $107 million.
As the University undergoes an academic transformation, research funding is vital to the institution marching forward without missing a beat. A portion of the expenditures support the University’s overhead costs, according to King. Indirect expenditures — which increased from $26 million in 2018 to $39 million today — are termed facilities and administrative costs. The federal government sets a rate for those based on the amount of space utilized for externally funded work at the University and the administrative costs associated.
“Research funding extends beyond the labs and field sites, it helps the University’s overall bottom line,” King said. “We are only going to get better if we continue to work with purpose and lean on our strengths.”
Research expenditures also play a factor in an institution’s Carnegie Classification, the leading framework for measuring a university’s level of research activity. WVU first attained R1 status, the highest category for research activity, in 2015 and has maintained that ranking since, as Carnegie releases assessments every three years.
For the most recent ranking, in 2021, WVU was one of only 146 institutions, alongside the likes of Harvard, Yale and Columbia, to be designated as R1.
“Investments in improving the competitiveness of the faculty yield a noticeable return in terms of dollar value,” King said. “But the greatest value comes in the opportunities it generates for our students, society’s next problem solvers, and the eventual benefit to the lives and well-being of all.”
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