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Nov. 17, 2005 • Volume 14 Number 6

Upward Trend in External Research Funding Continues

A survey of external funding among Boston College academic units provides some revealing insights into the University's development as a research institution, say the study's authors, and may help in planning for continued growth in that area.

The study, conducted by several BC academic and research administrators, found that five academic units in the University average at least $100,000 in external research funds per faculty member: Chemistry ($202,500); the Graduate School of Social Work ($193,897); the Lynch School of Education ($184,499); Physics ($137,557); and Biology ($103,631).

Ten years ago, according to the study, Chemistry was the only academic unit exceeding the $100,000-per-faculty-member threshold, which the authors say is considered a significant standard for a research institute.

The administrators also note that four of the five units with a $100,000 or above average have 20 or fewer faculty: GSSW (20.5); Chemistry and Biology (20 apiece); and Physics (14).

"In addition to our larger academic units, such as the Lynch and Carroll schools with their well-established research centers, smaller schools and academic departments have made serious investments in research," said Office for Sponsored Programs Director John Carfora.

The study's authors say the survey offers a useful perspective as Boston College prepares to implement its broad-based strategic planning initiative, which will provide an institutional direction for BC's long-term academic and student-formation missions. Once finalized, they add, the plan will reflect a major role for research in the University's commitment to scientific inquiry and contribution to social justice.

"We want every one of our faculty members to see both teaching and research as key components of their work," said Interim Associate Vice President for Research Prof. Michael Naughton (Physics). "The sciences have a long research tradition and our faculty have been increasingly successful in attracting external funding to support their scientific inquiries, in spite of their small department sizes. This suggests that judicious increases in faculty numbers in these areas will reap significant benefits."

The Lynch School was tops in total external funding for 2004-05, with $8.58 million, followed by the Institute for Scientific Research ($6.78 million), the Carroll School of Management ($4.16 million), Chemistry ($4.05 million) and GSSW ($3.97 million).

Among the five units with highest faculty research averages, GSSW and Physics were the two units with funding increases for 2004-05: GSSW, which has had increases for the last five years, grew by 16.9 percent, and Physics increased by 7 percent.

"The research productivity in some of the smaller academic units is notable," said Carfora. "They've helped to create and strengthen the necessary infrastructure to support active grant-seeking among a high percentage of faculty, and seen tremendous success.

"Other smaller units on campus are laying the groundwork for similar approaches to tap into research funding opportunities that capitalize on their discipline's strength."

Naughton singled out the success of GSSW faculty in obtaining external funding as "a reflection of BC's maturation as a major research university."

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer, the former AVP for research, pointed out that centers and institutes account for more than half of BC's external funding.

"Centers and institutes play an important role in the research life of the university," said Smyer, who is co-director of the newly established Center on Aging and Work. "Particularly in professional schools, like the Lynch School the Graduate School of Social Work, centers provide a way for faculty and students to integrate research, teaching, and student formation."

-Sean Smith

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