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Hopkins Still Top School for Research Spending

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 16, 2009

Johns Hopkins University led the nation in research and development spending in fiscal year 2008, according to a new National Science Foundation ranking, and most other Washington area institutions maintained their national R&D rankings in a down economy.

Virginia Tech reported Thursday that its ranking had dropped from 42nd to 46th on the latest annual NSF Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges, published Oct. 1. Research spending at Tech totaled $373 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008, an increase of less than $7 million over the year before.

Hopkins has ranked as the top research university on the survey since 1979. The school reported $1.7 billion in R&D spending in fiscal 2008. The institutions ranked second through fifth -- University of California at San Francisco; University of Wisconsin at Madison; University of Michigan and UCLA -- all reported spending in the $800 million to $900 million range.

About half of the R&D spending at Hopkins comes from its Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County, a division that does research for the Defense Department and NASA.

"Today, more than half of our annual expenditures are invested in research," said Lloyd Minor, provost of Hopkins, in a news release.

R&D growth at Tech was "below our goals," said Robert Walters, vice president for research, in a release. But Walters noted that spending grew at a strong clip in several funding areas. The only decline came in the Commonwealth Research Initiative, which slipped from $19 million to $8 million between 2007 and 2008. The program was scaled back amid Virginia budget shortfalls.

Two other top Maryland research schools, University of Maryland campuses in College Park and Baltimore, ranked 41st and 44th, respectively, with research spending just under $400 million. U-Md. research is divided between the two schools; combined, they would rank eighth in the nation, according to U-Md. spokesman Lee Tune.

Maryland research has progressed on "almost a steady trajectory upward," Tune said. The schools ranked higher in this year's survey than last. They announced earlier this month that their combined research funding -- a measure somewhat different from spending -- surpassed $1 billion for the first time in fiscal year 2009, which bodes well for next year's survey.

Tune said the NSF survey is the only instrument that allows research universities to compare themselves against one another and, as such, is closely watched.

Among other Washington area institutions, the University of Virginia ranked 70th, with $258 million in R&D spending; George Washington University ranked 103rd, with $157 million; Virginia Commonwealth University ranked 108th, with $149 million; and Georgetown ranked 111th, with $143 million. Several others appear lower on the list.