Scientists wearing lab coats peer into microscopes.

UA Research Ranks No. 2 in Growth Among Peers

The University of Alabama’s leading-edge research enterprise is the second fastest growing among the nation’s top-tier research institutions.

Powered by mostly external funding, spending on research and development activities at UA more than doubled over five years, placing UA’s growth rate second among top research institutions, according to an analysis of a survey of universities by the National Science Foundation.

Increasing research and development activities is a priority of the Office of Research and Economic Development, which recently posted progress on its five-year strategic plan.

“The University of Alabama has truly thrived in research over the past five years, due to our incredibly committed faculty and students,” said Dr. Allen Parrish, interim vice president for research and development. “Growing the research enterprise to a world-class level has empowered us to chart the trajectory of the future, enabling our graduates to be prepared for not just their first job, but for jobs over a 40-year career. As a national and international leader in research, we have the insight to prepare students for jobs of the future that don’t even exist yet.”

The goals within the plan are meant to facilitate the growth and impact of the UA research enterprise toward becoming one of the premier comprehensive research institutions in the Southeast while translating research productivity and innovation into economic and societal development and opening more opportunities for student experiences and success.

“Our focus over the past few years has been heavily oriented toward use-inspired research – research that is designed by scientists and industry working together to address societal challenges and opportunities,” Parrish said. “Our signature research institutes have led the charge in connecting UA researchers with industry and government partners.”

UA’s expenditures on research grew 105% from $63.3 million spent in 2017 to $129.5 million spent in in 2021, the latest year national comparisons from the NSF Higher Education Research and Development Survey can be made. That is the second biggest increase among the 146 universities granting doctoral degrees designated in the “Very High Research Activity,” or R1, category by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

In 2022, UA’s research and development expenditures grew 26% to $163.2 million, which will be reflected when the NSF survey is published in December.

Other highlights from the past year include another record number of faculty members participating in research activities. In fiscal year 2022, 40% of faculty members engaged in research, up from 38% a year earlier.

Those faculty members are submitting and getting awarded a record number of external grants and contracts, too. In fiscal year 2022, 840 grants and contracts were awarded to the University, up more than 3% from a year earlier and more than 28% over the past five years.

The increasing number of outside awards for research, other sponsored activity and instructional efforts more than doubled over the past four years to $211.4 million in fiscal year 2022. It was the ninth straight year of record sponsored awards.

To see more highlights from the past year, read the fourth ORED annual report.