Research grant funding awarded to Northwestern University dropped 8 percent last year, but officials believe the school is continuing to move up in grant funding compared to peer schools.

Northwestern’s research award funding for fiscal year 2011 was $511.7 million, down from $556.4 million the previous year

The difference in funding between the two years is due largely to the decrease in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In FY2011 there were 115 awards totaling $34.2 million funded from ARRA compared to 279 awards for $72.2 million received during FY2010. Without ARRA funding included in either this year’s or last year’s total, funding would have decreased just 1 percent ($6.7 million).

“Northwestern continues to produce the highest quality research across an impressively broad range of fields,” says Jay Walsh, Northwestern’s vice president for research. “We’ve seen astounding discoveries in the past year. For example, Northwestern researchers have found the molecular basis for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and developed a material that can harness electricity from heat-generating items such as vehicle exhaust systems.”

As the battle for federal research funding intensifies among universities, Northwestern continues to climb within its peer group. In 2001, for example, Northwestern ranked 37th among all universities in National Institutes of Health (NIH) dollars awarded. In 2010, the most recent year for which data are available, Northwestern ranked 25th.

This represents a 72 percent increase in NIH dollars awarded; during this time period NIH awards for research grew only 30.5 percent.

In the past year and relative to FY2010, awards to the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences grew by 9 percent to $67 million.

The School of Education and Social Policy’s awards grew by 14 percent to $8.6 million.

The Feinberg School of Medicine’s awards decreased by 8 percent to $317 million; however, the FY2011 awards are still 7 percent greater than the awards in FY2009.

The McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science decreased its funding by 12 percent to $62.4 million, but the FY2011 award level is 12 percent greater than FY2009.

In FY2011, the dollar volume of awards from U.S. state and local government bodies grew notably ($4.7 million), while those from foundations rose by 6 percent ($1.7 million). Awards from federal agencies were down by 11 percent ($51.5 million), while those from State of Illinois agencies declined by 37 percent ($4.2 million).

“So many people contribute to our research success each year: our faculty, our staff, our students and our postdocs,” says Vice President for Research Walsh. “These dedicated individuals show amazing persistence and creativity in finding solutions to the problems facing the world today and in the discovery of new and exciting knowledge that so vitally enriches society.”

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