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WMU gets nearly $39 million for research

Sept. 18, 2006

KALAMAZOO--External funding for research at Western Michigan University soared by more than 26 percent in 2005-06, totaling nearly $39 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Meanwhile, the number of inventions coming out of University labs hit an all-time high, nearly tripling in the same 12-month period.

"These increases are remarkable and show real determination and research prowess that are not deterred by the fact that we are seeing smaller amounts of funding available at both the federal and state levels," says WMU Interim President Diether H. Haenicke. "Our faculty researchers and the staff members who support their work have managed to push our research enterprise to a level we once could only imagine. They have earned our admiration."

According to Dr. Leonard Ginsberg, WMU interim vice president for research, total support for University research was $38,972,614 for the 2005-06 year--an increase of more than 26 percent over the previous year's $31.6 million total. Of the 2005-06 figure, $18.5 million came from federal agencies, with the largest amounts coming from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Health and Human Services.

"While our faculty researchers are submitting about the same number of proposals, they're experiencing a much higher success rate," notes Ginsberg. "In recent years we've continued to attract grants in our traditional areas of strength such as education, but our senior faculty experts in other fields have also established the capacity for securing large grants in a number of specialized areas."

Ginsberg says initiatives that fall into the category of traditional research attract the lion's share of grants and contracts received by WMU, with that figure topping $36 million last year. Other support comes in the form of in-kind funding and revenue from activities in such areas as WMU's Unified Clinics and its Paper Pilot Plant. And, Ginsberg notes, external grants are funding the whole continuum of WMU research, ranging from basic research to those focused on applying and commercializing research findings.

"We're also seeing a few large awards having a dramatic impact on our yearly total," he says. "For the year that just ended, 78 awards of $100,000 or more represented 91 percent of our funding. Often, those awards involve a team of faculty members here and at other universities."

WMU enjoyed particular success during the 2005-06 year in garnering funding for initiatives aimed at increasing the number of students who head for careers in science, technology engineering and math. Known as STEM disciplines, those fields are the subjects of intense focus, as the nation attempts to establish a work force ready to take advantage of current and future job opportunities.

Ginsberg notes that the Office of the Vice President for Research is working to support external funding by providing programs for new faculty on obtaining grants, grant writing and budget assistance; conducting grant pre-reviews; and by developing collaborative teams for larger grants.

"Our faculty members are busy, and grant writing requires skills that are often different than publishing," Ginsberg says. "But our faculty members have great ideas, and we do whatever it takes to help them be successful. We've streamlined our internal measures and have moved to additional in-house proposal development assistance."

Related story
WMU researchers triple number of inventions

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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