VPR Open Forum

October 25, 2017

Scott Whittenburg, VP for Research and Creative Scholarship, met with about 40 individuals from the University research community to provide an update on research and creative scholarship at UM and answer questions. Discussion included:

Growth in Research Enterprise

The disproportionately high quality of UM researchers continues to be recognized by external funders, respected international rankings, and a thriving graduate program. It's important to note that external research and creative scholarship has a mutualistic relationship with graduate education: top graduate students are attracted to universities with active and high profile programs, and, in turn, those students are essential in carrying out the research and creative scholarship projects.  As a sign of the health of this relationship, graduate student enrollment has increased.

Sponsored Expenditures
Graduate Enrollment
88.2 M
78.5 M
64.6 M

The positive growth in external funding per year has slowed, with only a 5% increase in expenditures projected for this year.  Research numbers per faculty is quite high compared to other research universities and continued growth is likely dependent on new faculty hires.

See ORSP's Award Volume / Expenditures

National Taiwan University Rankings

The success in grantsmanship has its roots in prestige of the faculty, which in turn is generated by high productivity in publications in top journals with high impact factors.  These very metrics were recently used by one of the top 5 or so most respected studies that ranks the top 800 world universities (out of the more than 4,000 research institutions world-wide, the National Taiwan University (NTU) ranks the top 800 world universities based upon the number of faculty publications in journals (research productivity), the number of citations those publications receive from other researchers (research impact) and the h-index and journal ranking of those publications (research excellence).  In the 2017  NTU rankings University of Montana is once again highly ranked in one field (Agriculture which includes Agricultural Sciences, Environment/Ecology and Plant & Animal Science) and several subject areas (Environment/Ecology, Geosciences and Plant & Animal Science).  UM improved in both world and US rankings in every field and subject category compared to the 2016 NTU rankings. 

Category World Ranking US Ranking
Field - Agriculture 123 45
Subject - Environment/Ecology 73 31
Subject - Geosciences 161 56
Subject - Plant & Animal Science 165 47

Renegotiation of UM's F&A Rate Agreement

Universities are allowed to recover some of the expenses that support the research endeavor, such as facilities and general use items. UM's F&A rates are at the low end of research universities and institutes.  UM's current F&A Rate Agreement was effective through June 30, 2017, and negotiation efforts are underway for an increase in UM's rates. When the new rate agreement is finalized, VPRCS Whittenburg will send out an updated report explaining how F&A recovery supports the institution, research infrastructure, and PI productivity.  

See F&A Rate Information

Dynamic Distribution of Institutional F&A Recovery Launched

As of July 1, 2017 (FY18), the Research Office began Dynamic F&A (DF&A) distribution for all existing and new sponsored projects. 

Instead of the previous model with a two year lag time between expenditure and distribution, DF&A is immediately recovered per each corresponding expenditure and put into the respective dean/director's SPABA account. Dynamic F&A increases efficiency and enhances the ability of units to use F&A to supportand grow research efforts. 

See Dynamic Distribution of F&A

University Grant Program to be Offered Again in February 2018

The University Grant Program (UGP) is a internal grant program that has proven successful in generating external funding.  This academic year, the Small Grants, Seed Grants, and GRIP will continue as in the past.  The Mentored Proposal Development Grant program may be tweaked to focus on support for individual faculty to become more competitive for national awards.

Dealing with Audits: A Necessary Part of a Thriving Research Environment

 Research administration is a highly regulated profession, which is why the VPRCS office appreciates the attention of PIs to pre- and post-award requirements.  As a state entity, UM rolls into the biennial State of Montana Single Audit. As a result, it is common for the State of Montana Legislative Audit Division to be onsite each year.  As a sign of the thriving research ventures, UM has also had desk or onsite audits from a variety of sponsors, including: 

  • National Science Foundation
  • Montana DNRC
  • Office of Justice
  • US HHS Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 
  • US Department of Labor
  • Indian Health Service 
  • Corporation for National Service 

Upcoming Research Events

UM is hosting the National Science Foundation National EPSCoR Conference, which will feature research highlights from UM and Montana, as well as national speakers focusing on topics including research innovation and excellence, partnerships, graduate education, and communication to the public. 

Next spring, the “InnovateU+M” workshop will be coordinated by the Broader Impacts Group and will focus on partnership building between innovation initiatives at UM ("U") and Missoula city and county ("+M").