UW-Madison: Retains Top Five R&D Ranking

MADISON – The University of Wisconsin-Madison remains the fourth largest research
university in the country as measured by the amount of money spent on research and
development, according to statistics released this week by the National Science
Foundation (NSF).

The ranking, which reflects research expenditures for 2004 (the most recent
available statistics), shows that UW-Madison spent nearly $764 million on research
in the sciences, engineering, the social sciences and arts and humanities. That
figure is up $43 million from 2003, when UW-Madison also ranked fourth nationally.

The top three universities for 2004, according to the NSF report, are Johns Hopkins
University, $1.3 billion; the University of California, Los Angeles, $773 million;
and the University of Michigan, $769 million. (The figure for Johns Hopkins includes
$670 million for the Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of Johns Hopkins that
focuses on defense and military-related research, much of it classified. UW-Madison
does not accept grants for classified research.)

UW-Madison’s ranking, according to Graduate School Dean Martin Cadwallader, is a
direct reflection of the efforts of university faculty and staff and their ability
to compete successfully in an increasingly difficult funding climate.

“Research dollars are hard to come by. The playing field is as crowded as ever, and
the level of competition only gets keener every year,” says Cadwallader, the
university’s chief research officer. “The fact that we rank so highly speaks to the
hard work and creativity of our faculty, staff and students scrambling for those
dollars. The competition is fierce.”

The new NSF ranking reflects total expenditures on research and includes all sources
of support – state, federal and private.

Of the $764 million in research dollars spent by UW-Madison in 2004, about $434.5
million came from the federal government, placing UW-Madison eighth among all U.S.
universities on the list of federally funded research expenditures.

Wisconsin ranked first among universities in non-federal research support,
attracting $329.5 million from nonfederal sources.  Of that, state and local
governments funded research to a level of about $35.9 million, industry provided
$17.9 million, private gifts and grants accounted for $210.2 million, and other
sources provided $65.5 million in 2004.

Cadwallader explains that other universities are investing more in their faculties
and infrastructure in an effort to capture a larger portion of the finite research
resources available. Federal research budgets, he notes, are static or are growing
only marginally with respect to inflation.

“The number of institutions that want to be like us is growing, but the pool of
resources is not matching that level of interest. The result is that faculty must
write more and better proposals in order to maintain their research budgets,” he

Virtually all research conducted on university campuses depends on the ability of
individual faculty and staff to write competitive proposals to fund work conducted
in their laboratories. Over time, the number of successful proposals has diminished
relative to the number of proposals submitted. For example, only one in five
proposals submitted to the National Institutes of Health, the federal agency that
funds the most research at UW-Madison, is successful, on average.

On the UW-Madison campus, the bulk of research dollars are spent in the life
sciences, with $473.7 million spent on biology and related disciplines. Engineering
research drew $94.9 million to the UW-Madison campus in 2004, and research in the
environmental sciences garnered $54.1 million. The physical sciences attracted $51.9
million, and work in the social sciences drew $41.7 million, while research in
psychology was funded at a level of $29.3 million, and research in the mathematical
and computational sciences was funded at a level of $18.3 million.

The complete rankings can be found at