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Research funding for WVU hits all-time high at $195 million this past year

woman in lab coat working in laboratory

Caroline Leadmon, a 2020 graduate with degrees in biochemistry and animal and nutritional sciences, conducts research in Professor Dan Panaccione’s lab in 2019. (WVU Photo/Greg Ellis)

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing uncertainties in the higher education world, West Virginia University received $195 million in external funding for research and other sponsored programs this past fiscal year.

The amount shatters last year’s record of $181 million. 

Vice President for Research Fred King attributes the record funding to the resiliency and ingenuity of University faculty and researchers.

“The dedication and work ethic of our faculty and staff shined through this pandemic,” King said. “Even though labs closed temporarily until extra safety precautions could be put into place, our commitment to research never wavered. If anything, it grew stronger.”

WVU receives funding for research from a variety of sources including federal, state, industry and private donors.

Research funding is usually obtained through a competitive process, in which projects are evaluated for quality and impact before monies are allocated. Competitions are run by government agencies, corporations and foundations.

Of the various sources, funding from the federal government level dwarfed others with $95 million for the fiscal year ended June 30. Funding from industry/other followed at $43 million and state funding at $39 million.

The top three funding federal agencies included the National Institutes of Health, $27 million; Department of Energy, $15 million; and the National Science Foundation, $14 million.

The uptick in funding, King said, is a result of an increase in the number and competitiveness of proposals submitted to potential sponsors of the work.

Overall, 1,072 proposals were submitted, with 442 receiving funding in FY ‘20.

External funding at WVU has climbed steadily since 2015, with $133 million reported that year.

“The faculty deserve all the credit for continuing to raise the research profile of West Virginia University,” King said.

King highlighted a number of projects – from COVID to non-COVID, hard science and humanities – by investigators who personify that the ‘research must go on’ regardless of a global pandemic. The COVID outbreak itself has generated a wealth of additional research opportunities, too.

Jay Krehbiel, assistant professor of political science, has spent the recent months surveying citizens from the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany and Spain on whether their proximity to the crisis undermines their faith in democracy. Krehbeil’s work is supported by a National Science Foundation RAPID award, funding dedicated to quick-response projects supporting severe or urgent situations.

“Our goal is to understand how a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic affects citizens’ support for democratic norms like the rule of law,” Krehbiel said in an April story.

Faculty members aren’t the only beneficiaries of research funding. Devansh Agarwal and Kshitij Aggarwal, both physics and astronomy graduate students from India, for example, created artificial intelligent, machine-learning software that can detect fast radio bursts in a quicker, more efficient manner. 

Research funding, ultimately, is critical to a deeper understanding of the world’s complex issues, King said. 

“The University’s ability to continuously secure such a volume of research dollars is a testament to our expertise and leadership in the academic world,” King said. “Government, industry and individual supporters of WVU have shown that they depend on us for piecing together the puzzle, whether it be fighting the opioid epidemic, innovating in new energy solutions or confronting COVID-19 from all views and angles. At the end of the day, these efforts support our land-grant mission to enhance the lives of all West Virginians.”

In December 2018, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education ranked WVU an R1, or very high research activity institution. Only 131 of the nation’s 4,500 colleges and universities attain this ranking and it places WVU in the same class as the nation’s elite research universities, such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Johns Hopkins.



CONTACT: Jake Stump
WVU Research Communications

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