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USF Jumps in National Research Rankings

Mark Schreiner
WUSF 89.7 News

While research spending at public and private universities across the country remained relatively stagnant from the previous year due to economic uncertainty, grants and contracts at the University of South Florida grew to a record level.

And with more funds, USF was able to conduct more research, leading the university to jump ten spots to No. 43 in the National Science Foundation's rankings of higher education research spending. USF reported that total research and development expenditures in fiscal 2012 increased 12 percent to $443.2 million.

That's good for second among state schools, both private and public. If you look only at public institutions, USF is knocking on the door of the national top 25, rising six spots to No. 27.

In a release, USF President Judy Genshaft expressed pride in the university's performance during these tough economic times.

“Our rise in the research rankings is a direct result of the hard work that goes on every single day across our campus, as well as our shared commitment  to improving lives through scientific discovery; the creation of new knowledge and new technologies; and the development of  improved cures and treatments for illnesses and diseases. Our work is making a difference in people’s lives and in Florida’s economy.”

While the amount of funds brought in by research is a sign of success, the amount of expenditures is considered more of a signal of how much actual research is going on at a university.

The sequester and federal government shutdown led to uncertainty that kept funding from federal, state and local governments down, which in turn slowed the universities' spending.

The NSF report shows the more than 900 institutions taking part in the survey reported total R&D spending of $65.8 billion in fiscal year 2012, a decline of 1.1 percent from the previous year once inflation is taken into account.

The University of Florida was the only state school ahead of USF, placing 23rd, a drop of five spots. Researchers at the Gainesville-based university had $697 million in expenditures in fiscal 2012, an almost 6 percent decline from a year earlier. The University of Miami placed 61st ($365 million), Florida State was 93rd ($225 million) and University of Central Florida was 136th (almost $122 million).

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore again topped the list, as it has for more than 30 years, with more than $2.1 billion in research and development spending. However, that includes more than $1.1 billion in expenditures at the Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory, which works closely with the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.

The complete university rankings can be found here. For more information on the survey and the NSF's methodology, click here.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.