by David F. Salisbury
Vanderbilt University has advanced one place in one of the principal national rankings of the value of federal research grants awarded to faculty members, according to an annual report compiled by the National Science Foundation.
Published last November and formally called “Federal Obligations for Science & Engineering Research & Development,” the ranking places Vanderbilt at 23 in the nation. Last year, the university posted a similar gain to 24 from 25, after breaking into the top tier of the nation’s research universities two years ago by jumping from 31 to 25. (The latest rankings are based on funding received in fiscal year 2004, the most recent year for which comprehensive information is available.)
“We’re in a great position for an institution of our size,” said Dennis G. Hall, associate provost for research and graduate education. “At this level, moving higher becomes increasingly competitive. We should feel great about how far we’ve come: Vanderbilt was at No. 38 only six short years ago.”
The ranking is based on reports filed by federal funding agencies and is one of a number of such rankings the NSF prepares at the request of Congress. “Even though this particular ranking does not catch all of the federal funding Vanderbilt receives, it is a good indicator of our progress because nearly all of the funds this ranking does catch are awarded on the basis of quality and merit by means of peer-reviewed competitive processes,” Hall said. This makes it an important yardstick with which to gauge the quality of university research.
The list shows Vanderbilt is competitive with much larger research powerhouses such as the University of Southern California ranked 22nd, and 26th-ranked University of California-Berkeley.
Hall attributes Vanderbilt’s steady rise to “careful and aggressive junior- and senior-faculty hiring,” accompanied by “significant institutional investments” in research and associated infrastructure.