USF hopes to raise more than $400 million in research grants

Despite a souring economy and University budget cuts, President Judy Genshaft said USF’s focus on research has not dwindled.

In her fall address, Genshaft said she wants the University to concentrate on finding other sources of funding — such as research grants — to offset state budget cuts. And key administrators are trying to bolster research opportunities amid declining funds, even looking abroad for scholarly money.

USF earned $366 million in research funding for the 2007-2008 school year, and Vice President for Research Karen Holbrook expects the amount for 2008-2009 to top $400 million.

Holbrook and researchers are looking at new ways to find funds for projects.

“We are working collaboratively to get a lot more federal funding and a lot more interdisciplinary support,” she said.

One goal is to collaborate on research with other universities or private companies. There are many global opportunities as well, Holbrook said.

Money that goes to research projects is earned by USF for that specific project.

Most funds come from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense and the Department of Education.

Ultimately, NIH spokeswoman Jenny Haliski said, most of the research money from federal agencies comes from taxpayer money.

Private companies and foundations also give money for research. Most of the funds come from continuing grants, but many new projects are started each year.

“We hope that we will have a lot of continuing money, but every year we also get new awards,” Holbrook said.

As research priorities in Florida and the nation change and USF hires new faculty with different interests and knowledge, new awards can ultimately be acquired, she said.

“There is something new all the time in terms of research,” Holbrook said. “There are always opportunities for new funding to come in.”

It is not always easy to secure scientific research money, Holbrook said. Faculty members must write a proposal, which is reviewed by peer experts in the same area of study. The grant must be well written and, to be considered for the money, the researcher usually needs a good background.

In addition to scientific research, the arts and social sciences at USF — for which projects usually require much less funding — play a major role in the research on campus, Holbrook said.

Projects of this type, Holbrook said, include literature, performance and music, visual arts and liberal arts work.

“We do an incredible amount of first-rate work in the humanities,” Holbrook said. “They don’t bring in a lot of money, but do build reputation.”

Holbrook said research success is often measured by monetary value, but research with little profit incentive helps USF’s reputation.

Students are also an important factor in expanding research at USF.  At least 1,000 undergraduate students participate in research of some kind, said Naomi Yavneh, who organizes Undergraduate Research at USF that matches students with mentors to study a subject and provides them with funds for projects and travel.

As more undergraduate students become involved with research, Holbrook said, more learn new skills that will prepare them for work after college.

“Undergraduate research prepares them for formal research programs,” Yavneh said.