Troy Fedderson, March 28, 2022
Expanding research, creative activity key to N2025 success
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s commitment to conducting novel and impactful research and creative activity is being strengthened through its N2025 strategic plan.
As the university enters the third year of the strategic plan, campus leaders gathered to discuss progress made toward the document’s six aims and related goals. Videos from the discussions are being released through April 25 with a weekly theme tied to each of the N2025 aims.
The second discussion, available below and on the N2025 website, is focused on what is colloquially known as “Aim Two,” which calls for the university to “establish a culture at Nebraska committed to increasing the impact of research and creative activity.” Two video stories highlighting innovative research and creative activity related to this aim will be released March 30.
The university’s research and creative activity enterprise generates new knowledge, solves real-world problems locally and globally, and enhances lives. Its ability to transform lives is among the most fundamental purposes of the institution.
“Establishing a culture at Nebraska that remains committed to increasing the impact of our research and creative activity is a key obligation and a key opportunity for our land-grant university,” said Bob Wilhelm, vice chancellor for research and economic development. “I’m proud of the progress that we have all made in the last couple of years on N2025, in strategy, expectations and our targets.”
Per the N2025 plan, targets within Aim Two include:
- Achieving $450 million in annual research expenditures, including at least $30 million from the private sector and $10 million in licensing income:
- Increasing faculty participating in extramurally-funded research, scholarship and creative activity by 5% annually on a three-year rolling average;
- Expanding faculty apportioned to do research, scholarship and creative activity by 5% annually on a three-year rolling average;
- Increasing faculty who receive external honors and award by 10% annually on a three-year rolling average; and
- Growing graduate (master’s and doctoral) degrees awarded by 5% each year.
In the video, Becky Zavala, assistant vice chancellor for research and economic development, outlined how the institution is gaining momentum — trending upward in externally-sponsored expenditures; expanding faculty participating in extramurally-funded studies, with 780 in 2020 and 973 in 2021; and 8% more faculty earned external awards between 2020 and 2021.
Wilhelm reported that thus far in fiscal year 2022, the university has surpassed previous years in the size of sponsored research grant awards, with the average size of proposals increased by 34% when compared to 2021 totals. Year-to-date, the average size of research grant awards have increased by 103%.
“This means we are being more successful, successful in larger scope and in higher quality than previous years,” Wilhelm said. “We also have more grants of more than $1 million submitted already, so this suggests that we’re thinking bigger now more than ever before.”
Key successes at the college level include:
- A record $32 million in research awards (year to date) earned by the College of Arts and Sciences;
- A $51 million grant (the university’s largest ever), which will advance subatomic physics research at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider;
- $64 million in sponsored awards earned by researchers, a record for the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources;
- Young faculty in the College of Engineering have earned more than a dozen CAREER Awards from the National Science Foundation — which is one of the most prestigious awards for faculty beginning their careers — and several Presidential Young Investigator awards; and
- A third of the faculty in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications are now research fellows within campus organizations (such as the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, National Strategic Research Institute, Daugherty Institute, etc.) and grants earned have grown from two in 2021 to 14 thus far in 2022.
The university’s commercialization activities also are making impacts as the institution continues to be ranked in the top 100 international universities for patent production.
“Obviously, the pandemic has had an impact on research and creative activity across the nation, but we have been able to achieve at much higher levels that most of our peers across the country,” said Chancellor Ronnie Green. “I couldn’t help but reflect on our conversation today and thinking about what Charles Bessey would think were he here today.
“I suspect that if Dr. Bessey were here, he would be immensely proud of this institution that he was a founder — in many ways of — for the research and creative activity impact that the university has today.”