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VCU’s research ranking goes up

Several research areas make the top 50 in national rankings.

VCU campus VCU campus (Photo: University Marketing)

By A.J. Hostetler

Virginia Commonwealth University is No. 58 among public universities nationwide in terms of federally funded research expenditures, with some research areas making it into the top 50, according to National Science Foundation rankings.

The data was released in late December through the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development fiscal year 2020 survey. “Expenditures” is based on the portion of awarded research grants from institutions, initiatives, endowments and foundations spent in a fiscal year.

VCU’s 2020 ranking of 58th improves over its 2019 ranking of 65th among public peers.

The data also identified VCU as 87th in research and development expenditures among public and private institutes of higher education. Data is compiled and published annually and reflects not only STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or health fields, but also the arts and humanities.

“The improvement in this highly respected national ranking affirms our dedication to improving the human condition through research and scholarship,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU and VCU Health System. “Our students benefit from the rich experiences and opportunities that they gain in part because of our determination to attract talented faculty and elevate VCU as one of the nation's premier public research universities.”

“The NSF national ranking reflects our growing prominence and the truly amazing work of our faculty, trainees, students and staff across all campuses and disciplines, despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic,” added P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D., vice president for research and innovation.

VCU research areas featured in the top 50 of the foundation’s national rankings among all public research universities include:

  • No. 12 in liberal arts and other nonscience disciplines
  • No. 32 in psychology
  • No. 33 in health sciences                                                                       
  • No. 38 in Department of Health and Human Services funding
  • No. 44 in life sciences
  • No. 50 in biological and biomedical sciences

The university’s portfolio of total external sponsored funding for FY 2020 was a then-record $335 million, an amount that grew to $363 million in FY 2021. Vice President Rao said the increase in expenditures is a credit to VCU faculty and other researchers who compete to obtain awards from various institutions, initiatives, endowments and foundations.

The increase underscores the university’s recent commitment to its One VCU Research Strategic Priorities Plan, designed to capitalize on VCU’s growing national leadership in many fields of research and scholarship and accelerate transformative innovation. For example, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation has added new or revamped research cores and centers, putting cutting-edge equipment and highly trained staff in place to assist faculty in their work. 

Internal research funding opportunities announced last month by the office and the Office of the Provost will support faculty members’ collaborative efforts across VCU’s campuses and its four key research initiatives:

  • Enriching the human experience
  • Achieving a just and equitable society
  • Optimizing health
  • Supporting sustainable energy and environments

“Research is fundamental to what we do. Every diagnostic test, treatment or medication we provide is grounded in research before it reaches the bedside,” said Arthur Kellermann, M.D., senior vice president for VCU Health Sciences and CEO of VCU Health System. “Patients who receive care in academic health systems like VCU Health benefit in many ways: they have the latest clinical and scientific advances, they are surrounded by highly skilled faculty, staff and trainees who are at the top of their game, and a strong research program attracts top talent from across the country. When patient care, education and research are fully aligned, it transforms medicine and saves lives.”

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