Vanderbilt established in top tier of national research universities

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Vanderbilt University ranks 24th in the value of federal research grants awarded to faculty members, according to the National Science Foundation.

The ranking, published last month and based on fiscal year 2003, advances Vanderbilt one position, after the university broke into the top tier of the nation’s research universities last year by jumping from 31st to 25th.

“This is great recognition for the university, because once an institution is at this level, it has plenty of credibility,” said Dennis G. Hall, associate provost for research and graduate education. “It means that we are competing successfully for federal resources with the best universities in the country.”

The rankings are based on reports filed by federal funding agencies. Because nearly all federal research grants are awarded on the basis of scientific merit, the value of federal research and development awards a university receives is one of the yardsticks used to gauge the quality of its research.

The list shows Vanderbilt is competitive with research powerhouses including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (ranked No. 21) and 26th-ranked University of California, Berkeley.

Vanderbilt’s steady rise is the “result of careful and aggressive junior- and senior-faculty hiring” accompanied by “significant institutional investments” in research and associated infrastructure, Hall said.

Each year, the NSF publishes another, similar ranking. It is based on the amount of federal R&D money that universities spend, rather than the amount that the federal government awards or obligates to the universities. The expenditures ranking based on fiscal year 2003 was released in July, and showed Vanderbilt up to 30th from 39th the previous year.

According to the new report, the total value of federal R&D grants awarded to Vanderbilt in 2003 grew to $235 million, a 9 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. Eighty-nine percent of this came from Health and Human Services, home of the National Institutes of Health. This reflects the research strength of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the large NIH research budget, combined with the widespread emphasis on health-related research throughout campus. At $9.4 million, the next largest source of research funding was the Department of Defense, followed by the NSF at $8.3 million.

Of the top 25 universities on the new NSF rankings, 13 also appear on the top 25 universities as listed by U.S. News and World Report. Vanderbilt is one of them.

“It’s an impressive list, one that places us in very good company among the nation’s finest comprehensive universities,” Hall said.

Media contact: David F. Salisbury, (615) 343-6803

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