University News

Research funding sees 37 percent increase

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This fiscal year, Brown has received 37 percent more funding for research awards than it did the previous year, according to a press release.

Brown was granted $180 million this year, with $27 million coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, making up roughly 15 percent of the awards. The stimulus has primarily been sponsoring infrastructure-oriented projects, though stimulus grants are funding research-based projects at Brown as well.

The Department of Physics, for example, has received ample funding this year. Professor of Physics David Cutts said that the Office of Science, inside of the U.S. Department of Energy, is funding physics faculty in both research- and theory-based projects.

Cutts said that this jump in funding was a one-time increase because of the federal stimulus. “The main idea is for the government to put money into the economy to help people go back to work,” Cutts said.

The physics department’s newly acquired infrastructure includes electronics for developing a logic analyzer and a number of computing systems to create a high-power cluster, Cutts said.

This new infrastructure, Cutts said, “will definitely make a difference in what we’re able to do.”

Other departments have also seen increased funding as a result of the stimulus. Professor of Medical Science Edward Hawrot said that the Bio Medical department won two major awards this year.

The first award came from a division of the National Science Foundation, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The five-year award is geared toward setting up resources in the department, therefore “building the base for all our faculty,” Hawrot said.

To win the competitive award, Brown partnered with the University of Rhode Island and several other universities, Hawrot said.

Brown’s portion of these funds will be used to buy computational hardware and infrastructure to support marine-life sciences, Hawrot said.

Part of Brown’s proposal for this funding outlined what Hawrot called “intellectual merit,” meaning that there has to be a focus on exactly how faculty would benefit from new infrastructure. Because computational capability is needed for faculty to carry out their research, Hawrot said, the infrastructure is beneficial.

Brown has used part of the $575,000 allocated for computational hardware to buy an Illumina genome analyzer.

The second grant awarded to the Bio Medical Department was only available to states that had won the first grant, and only one proposal was taken from each eligible state, making the process very competitive.

Brown’s proposal was to enhance cyber connectivity in University buildings in Providence’s Jewelry District. Buildings in the Jewelry District have only one-gigabit connectivity, while main campus buildings run at 10 gigabits per second, Hawrot said.

Brown requested $1 million to buy the network hardware necessary to complete this task. The improved connectivity will help faculty finish their research faster, Hawrot said.

“Infrastructure will go a long way to raise Brown’s status as a research university,” Hawrot said.

The Department of Community Health has also received federal funding.

Ira Wilson, professor of community health, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that he received a research grant from the National Institutes of Health for $1.25 million this year, and will use the money to conduct research with three colleagues at different institutions over the next three years.

Wilson also wrote that investigators in the health services, policy and practice section of the community health department have “had a very good year and received over $6 million in grant funding in 2010.”

Clyde Briant, vice president for research, said that Brown’s recent infrastructure funding will “offer more opportunities to undergraduates and graduates because it allows more research to go on.”

“My own view is that research and teaching are complementary, and that as Brown’s research funding increases, the quality of its undergraduate education will improve, as will the variety of opportunities available to undergraduates,” Wilson wrote.

Briant also added that the increase in funding is a great tribute to the faculty.

“There is a lot of competition for these awards. If your university is getting 30 percent success, that is good,” Briant said.

Richard Lewis, science media specialist, said, “it’s important to understand that competition for funding from deferral agencies is intense.”

More stimulus-funded research is occurring on campus right now. The Department of Sociology received $432,000, and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology was awarded $446,000. These projects, respectively, are investigating the social discovery of flame retardant chemicals and identifying “the environmental factors that promote anaerobic ammonium oxidation,” Lewis wrote.

In a press release, Briant said, “Although federal stimulus funds are coming to an end, I expect this momentum to continue.”