Sponsored Research Reached New Highs Last Academic Year

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Boston College scholars and scientists are coming off their most fruitful year ever in sponsored research funding, having submitted nearly $100 million in proposals and obtained almost $24 million in outside grants in fiscal year 1997-98.

The nearly $24 million in grants from government and private foundations was 22 percent more than BC researchers had received the year before, and 70 percent more than five years ago.

The marked increase in grant awards reflects the University's success in recruiting faculty active in their fields and in strengthening resources that support research, said Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael Smyer.

"We're competing in a marketplace for students who expect a certain level of faculty research," said Smyer. "Students want to study with faculty who are leaders in their fields and who are asking the most interesting questions in their disciplines."

Factors behind the boost in external funding, Smyer said, include the state-of-the-art Merkert Chemistry Center, which has lured talented scientists - and, subsequently, millions of dollars in research grants - to Boston College. He also cited Project Agora and similar advances in campus computerization that have encouraged funding for research into applications of technology.

"There's a clarity of mission throughout the University as to our becoming a major research institution," said Smyer. "It's reflected in many formal and informal conversations which have taken place across campus in recent years and, most notably, in the $260 million initiative to strengthen our academic programs and resources. We have made the commitment and we're seeing the results."

Between June 1997 and May 1998, Boston College researchers received 247 awards totaling $23,972,000. The School of Education accounted for nearly $8.4 million of the total, while the Chemistry Department obtained $4.4 million. The Institute for Scientific Research (formerly the Institute for Space Research) received $3.2 million over that period, while the Carroll School of Management and the Irish Institute each landed $1 million.

Roughly three-quarters of the funding received came from federal sources such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, according to Smyer, with the rest coming from corporations, private foundations, state and local governments, and other sources.

Smyer noted faculty and administrators submitted more proposals last year than ever before, making 291 applications for external funding totaling $99,789,319. The amount asked was almost two-and-a-half times that requested in fiscal 1990, when BC researchers filed 168 proposals totaling some $40.6 million.

Office of Research Administration Director Stephen Erickson said Boston College has seen a 40 percent increase since fiscal year 1992 in the number of faculty submitting proposals.

"We are seeing an upward trend in sponsored-project activity continued in the first quarter of this year," Erickson added. "So far, it looks like this will be another solid year. The faculty should be congratulated."

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