The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has experienced impressive research growth over the last two decades. Nebraska faculty are publishing in top journals, pursuing large multidisciplinary center grants with greater success and making discoveries that are receiving national and international attention. This success provides a foundation for continuing growth in the next five years. Nebraska aspires to the excellence in research, scholarship and creative activity envisioned in the report of the N|150 Commission and the report of the N2025 Strategy Team, “Every Person and Every Interaction Matters.”
In his N|150 State of the University Address, Chancellor Ronnie Green emphasized a vision for Nebraska to be a transformative, world-leading, 21st-century, mission-integrated land-grant university without walls. The specific vision presented by Chancellor Green includes a research and creative activity enterprise approaching $450 million, prioritized and resource-enhanced around a deepening commitment to solving wicked problems and grand challenges important to Nebraska.
Nebraska is also committed to the research growth metrics set by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, which call for the university to increase research expenditures from federal agencies at a rate 20% higher per year than the national average, on a three-year rolling average.
The Office of Research and Economic Development – in partnership with department chairs, center directors, deans and vice chancellors – provides leadership, services and infrastructure that assist faculty and support growth in research and creative activity. The ORED mission is to drive excellence in research, scholarship and creative activity, demonstrated by extramural funding and research expenditures, book and journal publications, citations, external honors and awards, patents, business startups, community impacts and more. To fulfill its mission, ORED has set the following goals:
- Embrace the vision of a bold and audacious future for Nebraska research.
- Continue to provide faculty with efficient and stellar research support services.
- Drive innovation.
- Facilitate an inclusive environment in which to perform research, scholarship and creative activities.
- Design its programs to value the power of diverse perspectives and give rise to all voices within the Nebraska research community.
- Enable and support research integrity.
- Make evidence-based, model-driven investments and decisions.
- Communicate and reinforce Nebraska’s commitment to excellence in equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Cultivate and enhance research, scholarship and creative activity that transforms lives and learning.
In sum, campuswide research growth initiatives during the next five years are guided by the report of the N|150 Commission, the N2025 goals and longstanding NU Board of Regents metrics. This Research Roadmap details ORED’s role in reaching these goals, along with the strategies and tactics for doing so and metrics for tracking progress.
ORED will partner with colleges, schools, departments, centers and faculty across campus to develop individual research growth and engagement plans. Up-to-date research metrics for each of these groups will be available in dashboard format at nuinsight.nebraska.edu. A link to the dashboards will be available in NUgrant for easy accessibility.
Research and economic development are key components to achieving the vision and mission envisioned by the N|150 Commission. These core aspirations and goals, outlined in the N|150 Vision and Mission document, will guide ORED’s path.
Goal 1: Enable research to transform lives and learning
By advancing knowledge, solving the world’s challenges, and deepening our understanding of humanity, we enhance quality of life in the state of Nebraska and beyond. By connecting everything we do to our research, scholarship and creative activity, our innovations shape the education we provide to undergraduate, graduate and professional students.
Goal 2: Continue building a culture of intensive research collaboration and inventiveness
Nebraska is known for fostering a culture of intensive research collaboration and inventiveness, and for producing and disseminating research of exceptional quality and significance. Emphasizing entrepreneurial partnerships on and off campus, we tailor our research and creative activity around and through multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaborations. We recognize and support the full capacity of students as participants and colleagues in ongoing research at the university.
Goal 3: Ensure every person and every interaction matters
We aim to lead U.S. public universities in affordability and accessibility to a world-class education, inviting students from Nebraska, the nation and world to join us in creating a better life. In our community we are committed to ensuring a deep appreciation for diversity, inclusive excellence, and the contributions of each individual to the greater good. We attract, educate and support students whose talent and work ethic will shape their communities for decades to come.
Goal 4: Build community through engagement
We serve as a catalyst for growth, prosperity and cultural enrichment for Nebraska and beyond in ways that redefine relationships between 21st century research universities and their communities.
Strategy 1: Enhance the quality and stature of research, scholarship and creative activity at Nebraska.
- Help recruit, develop and retain diverse faculty who are active in research, scholarship and creative activity.
- Partner with colleges, schools, departments, centers and faculty to advance plans focused on increasing research expenditures through 2025.
- Diversify and increase the capacity of ORED staff, ensuring staffing is scalable relative to sponsored and compliance activities.
- Position pre-tenure faculty to establish high-quality research programs and provide ongoing support and development opportunities for mid-career and senior faculty.
- Coordinate state-of-the-art research instrumentation and infrastructure to enable discovery and innovation and increase research competitiveness.
- Foster an environment of research integrity and inclusion, and support faculty in complying with research regulations.
- Participate in campuswide efforts to promote business startups based on faculty and student intellectual property.
- Develop and support the research capacity of undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
- Support new approaches consistent with open science, including infrastructure for sharing data and methods, to foster integrity, reproducibility and broader understanding in research.
- Partner with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to intentionally pursue extramural funding opportunities focused on broadening the participation of individuals underrepresented in research and economic development.
- Leverage the expertise of ORED staff and internal or external mentors to help increase the success of diverse faculty pursuing extramural funding, honors and awards.
- Diversify the base of sponsors investing in Nebraska’s research portfolio and aggressively pursue opportunities for nonprofit, philanthropic and international support.
Strategy 2: Cultivate and steward the external partnerships necessary to advance the relevance, impact, competitiveness and utilization of research at Nebraska.
- Develop growth plans to increase research expenditures from the private sector.
- Increase funding from federal agencies for university-industry partnerships, technology commercialization and university-centric economic development.
- Organize networking events focused on engaging the needs of the diverse populations and communities that UNL serves.
- Leverage Nebraska Innovation Campus and other economic development activities to create opportunities for private sector companies to establish synergistic research partnerships with UNL and support student training and workforce development.
- Implement a purposeful plan for federal agency engagement that comprises activities distributed across the administrative, faculty and institutional levels.
- Forge intentional relationships with other universities and community-based and private sector organizations to help ensure research, scholarship, creative activity and economic development activities are relevant.
- Develop long-term, reciprocal relationships with minority-serving institutions, increasing opportunities to collaborate with, learn from and mentor the next generation of leaders, researchers and scholars.
- Ensure that policies, including promotion and tenure policies, support and encourage an increase in industry-academia and nonprofit foundation partnerships.
- Develop mechanisms to better engage Nebraska’s federal legislative delegation and utilize the university’s Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm.
- Partner with the Office of Global Engagement to extend UNL’s global reach by helping to develop international research collaborations.
Strategy 3: Enable and incentivize interdisciplinary teams to harness the intellectual capital essential to advance fundamental knowledge and access resources required to address society’s grand challenges.
- Partner with colleges to ensure an inclusive climate that encourages and incentivizes interdisciplinary research, scholarship, creative activity and economic development.
- Develop standard practices for research center classification, operations and performance evaluation.
- Reinstate the Research Advisory Board with an immediate focus on identifying Grand Challenges. Develop a process to identify existing and emerging research strengths that align with funding opportunities to address global problems and grand societal challenges.
- Support faculty efforts to collaborate with minority-serving institutions and with community-based organizations to collectively develop large-scale proposals in response to the needs of diverse groups and underserved populations.
- Encourage and facilitate strategic faculty hires that have the potential to provide leadership for major research initiatives, fill critical gaps in research expertise and build critical mass and stronger interdisciplinary research teams.
- Partner with the Office of Graduate Studies and the Office of Undergraduate Education to support programming that enables students and postdoctoral fellows to participate in interdisciplinary research experiences.
Strategy 4: Provide opportunities for all faculty to communicate the broader impacts of their work, increase their scholarly prominence and earn external recognition for excellence in research, scholarship or creative activity.
- Support established and emerging approaches to broadly disseminate research findings and foster greater understanding of research and economic development impacts.
- Support research communication skill-building of faculty, students and staff.
- Facilitate the pursuit of external honors and awards important to faculty in their fields and disciplines and build a campus culture that celebrates the recognition of academic excellence.
- Ensure nominations for major honors and awards are inclusive.
- Communicate the impact of Nebraska research, scholarship, creative activity and economic development on the state, nation and world.
- Leverage competitive intelligence approaches to compile strategic information about faculty, sponsors and peers and create actionable insights that can help better position Nebraska faculty for success (e.g., grant readiness assessments, award trajectories, etc.).
To track progress toward reaching the goals set forth in the Report of the N150 Commission, the N2025 Strategic Plan and the NU Board of Regents metrics, ORED will use a set of research-relevant metrics taken from the N2025 Strategic Plan. The metrics are divided into five categories, each representing an area of targeted growth for Nebraska’s research enterprise.
- Achieve $450 million in annual research expenditures including at least $30 million from the private sector and $10 million in licensing income
- Increase the number of faculty participating in extramurally-funded research, scholarship and creative activity by 5% annually on a three-year rolling average.
- Increase the number of faculty apportioned to do research, scholarship, and creative activity by 5% annually on a three-year rolling average.
To measure progress toward these metrics, each college can select which research participation target to use. Options include: (1) sponsored research only; (2) an alternative that the college can track; or (3) an alternative that ORED can track.
- Increase the number of faculty receiving external honors and awards by 10% annually on a three-year rolling average.
- Increase graduate (master’s and doctoral) degrees awarded by 5% per year.
- Increase extramural funding, scholarship, and creative activities generated by interdisciplinary teams by 15% annually on a three-year rolling average.
- At least 50% of strategic research investments aligned with university-prioritized Grand Challenges.
- Increase the number of U.S. patents issued by 70% and the number of licenses executed by 50%, and form seven research-based startup companies annually, based on university technologies.
A critical factor in UNL’s research success over the last decade is private funding raised through the University of Nebraska Foundation, as well as funding from other sources, such as the Nebraska Research Initiative, the University of Nebraska Programs of Excellence and the Nebraska Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund. Funds from these sources have supported faculty hires; provided professorships, fellowships and scholarships; funded cutting-edge research instrumentation and new construction and renovation leading to improved research infrastructure; and seeded pilot projects and initiatives that have grown into larger-scale research successes. These investments have helped attract talented faculty and students and impressed funding agencies with UNL’s unique capabilities. Continued growth in research expenditures will require a continued collaboration with these and other generous partners to further expand research infrastructure and resources, including the staffing of ORED. Further, university policies that support and encourage an increasing research and economic development portfolio will be essential for achieving the N2025 goals.
Monitoring the excellence of the faculty and university is an increasingly difficult task, yet it is critical to developing the best strategies to meet our goals. UNL has developed NURAMP, a robust system for tracking research funding, and acquired licenses for software systems such as Academic Analytics, Elsevier products and Web of Science, which facilitate analysis of research productivity using various measures. In concert with the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics, ORED will use these analytical tools and resources to better understand UNL’s scholarly strengths and relative market position among other research universities.