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Donations for Research Skyrocket

Outside sources donated a record-shattering $222 million of funding for research to UCSB during the 2009-10 fiscal year, marking a nearly 30 percent boost in contributions over the previous year.

The 28 percent increase in extramural funding from ’08-’09 to ’09-’10 — which campus authorities say we largely have the federal government to thank — also indicates that the university is now receiving double the amount of outside funding for research than it did ten years ago.

Vice Chancellor for Research Michael Witherell said the dramatic hike correlates directly to the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, which provided $40 million to UCSB for research in 2010. In fact, $192 million of the $222 million UCSB received in external research funding in ’09-’10 came from federal research agencies.

“Funding agencies like the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy had more funding to allocate this year because of ARRA so there was more money to compete for,” he said. “We have averaged seven percent increases over the last 20 years because of our increasing competitiveness, but this year the increase jumped to 28 percent because of ARRA.”

According to a university press release, $67 million of the $192 million that UCSB received from federal funding agencies in 2009-10 was donated by the NSF.

Additionally, Witherell stated, seven prominent assistant professors from science and engineering disciplines were granted Faculty Early Career Development awards from the NSF in 2009-10. Furthermore, over the last six years a higher percentage of assistant professors in science and engineering from UCSB have received NSF awards than any other university in the nation, except for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is tied for first.

“All levels of faculty — professors, associate professors and assistant professors — have succeeded in winning research funding, in addition to UCSB researchers who are not on the faculty,” he said. “I mention the assistant professors particularly because that first round of funding is so important to establishing their research programs.”

UCSB’s Institute for Energy Efficiency received the largest extramural grant for research at the university in 2009-10 when its faculty garnered $15.7 million to launch the Center for Energy-Efficient Materials. The facility will use the endowment to advance technologies such as photovoltaics, thermoelectrics and solid-state lighting at the new center.

According to Witherell, many researchers, staff and faculty members can all benefit from just one research grant, which is often divided among multiple disciplines.

“One should realize that a single large research grant like that is awarded to a team of researchers in many departments,” he said. “It is listed under [electrical and computer engineering for instance,] because the ‘principal investigator’ is John Bowers, a professor of ECE. But it will be used to support researchers across a wide range of departments.”

Other recipients of external federal grants this year included the computer science, science and technology and physics departments.

Additionally, the Humanities Dept. — traditionally not a recipient of noteworthy federal funding — saw English professor Patricia Fumerton receive a two-year grant of $315,000 for the English Broadside Ballad Archive (her third win), which seeks to collect, catalogue and make ballads readily accessible to the public by providing high-quality facsimiles, transcriptions and recordings.

“The Ballads weren’t originally printed in color, but now you will be able to see them in color,” she said. “They look totally different. The last grant we received allows us to look at the color images, which changes the perspective of the pieces.”

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