Guest Column: UA's Expanded Research Infrastructure Brings Notable Growth in Research Enterprise

Guest Column: UA's Expanded Research Infrastructure Brings Notable Growth in Research Enterprise

By Kimberly EspyResearch, Discovery and Innovation
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Kimberly Espy
Kimberly Espy

The University of Arizona and its researchers have once again succeeded tremendously in growing our research and development enterprise.

Over the past year, our researchers have secured more funding per faculty member than many of our peers, they've made international news with their innovations – from launching a rocket to an asteroid to debunking the myth about the first AIDS case in humans – and they've been invited to partner with industry in a number of national initiatives.

This isn't just good news for the UA. It's also a huge benefit for the state, as these increases in growth, combined with recognition of our expertise across multiple disciplines, helps to attract substantial external resources to Arizona.

Overall, the UA's research activity topped $606 million in the most recent fiscal year (FY2016), surpassing the previous year's total by nearly $20 million, and exceeding the annual target set by the Arizona Board of Regents

There also was an increase in submitted research and development proposals. In fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, UA researchers submitted nearly 3,000 research and development proposals. By comparison, that's an increase of more than 350 proposals from 2013, an all-time high that was achieved at the height of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package approved by Congress in 2009. Furthermore, researchers won 2,181 research and development awards – up by over 400 since 2013. The number of awards over $2 million increased substantially since 2013, as did those with cross-college collaborations, an indication of increased interdisciplinary efforts.

I am constantly inspired by the ingenuity and dedication of the faculty and staff who drive the UA's research and development output, particularly for their ability to do so at such a high level of quality and intensity. This increase in the UA's research and development activity demonstrates that our strategies to support our researchers and expand innovation at the University are working.

At the University of Arizona, stalwart researchers are addressing the grand challenges of our time. To help support UA research and researchers, our office is dedicated to creating the infrastructure that supports our researchers to successfully realize their research goals.

Among the support services that Research, Discovery & Innovation remains committed to developing are:

  • Research Development Services to help UA researchers and scholars identify funding opportunities, form effective teams, aid in successful grant writing techniques, and help craft winning proposals. Additionally, Research Development Services, or RDS, collects and disseminates information on funding opportunities and the funding landscape.
  • A host of internal funding programs to jump-start early-career projects, interdisciplinary projects, meet the need for enhanced equipment, spur industry collaborations and expand student training, and provide large, complex proposal assistance.
  • 10 university-wide institutes and centers that provide researchers with the infrastructure necessary to come together around common problems to have a wide-reaching impact on our local community and state by facilitating collaboration among researchers, government and industry – and work in an interdisciplinary way to help answer the bigger questions.
  • Dozens of core facilities focused on a variety of research areas that offer specialized instrumentation and equipment, cutting-edge technology and expert services, training and consultation.
  • New divisions focused on supporting successful pursuit of new partnerships of varied funding streams. Strategic Business Initiatives, which helped the UA identify its 244 industry partners in the fiscal year 2015, offers services such as facilitating access to corporate programs and connecting industry to UA researchers. Global Research Alliances focuses on realizing internal research partnerships and large-scale projects.

Additionally, RDI regularly offers training for researchers at all levels to help with managing awards and contracts, understanding and navigating regulatory requirements and, ultimately, conducting world-class research. Workshops to prepare proposals for National Science Foundation CAREER awards, National Institutes of Health research career development awards (also known as "K" awards) and arts and humanities grants are offered on a recurring basis. For early-career researchers from all disciplines, RDI has curated a list of funding opportunities and offers assistance with grant proposal development.

This year, I am so proud to see that our researchers have truly excelled, driving the University's research enterprise forward, and I look forward to continuously finding new ways to support them in their work.

Kimberly Espy is senior vice president for research. She also is a professor of psychology and psychiatry. 

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