Ohio State invests in future of research enterprise, building on foundation of steady growth

​Funding, publications, invention disclosures are key indicators of success

By: Emily Caldwell

Published on February 01, 2018

The Ohio State University is building on steady funding and productivity growth in the research enterprise by strategically teaming disciplines around research priorities and investing in new infrastructure and postdoctoral scholar support.

In three key indicators – funding, publications and technology commercialization – Ohio State innovation has been on a consistent upward trajectory over the past several years, Interim Senior Vice President for Research Randy Moses reported Thursday to the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee of the Board of Trustees.

In a measure of past growth, research expenditures have increased from $767 million in 2012 to $864 million in 2017, Moses said. Increases in externally sponsored research awards, peaking at $572 million in 2017, predict strong expenditures in future years as well.

Faculty scholarship growth has outpaced increases in the number of faculty, translating into growth in productivity per research scholar, Moses noted. Ohio State scholars produced 7,244 publications in 2017, up from 5,434 in 2012. Citations – a measure of research impact – also are on the rise, up to 357,000 in 2017 from 234,000 in 2012.

In commercialization efforts, the university has recorded steady increases in active license agreements and active startups and an all-time high in invention disclosures, which reached 451 last year. Moses said every dollar received in licensing revenue corresponds to $50 in company sales of products that are the fruits of Ohio State research. In 2017, that translated into an estimated $160 million economic boost.

The research enterprise is in the spotlight this week as Ohio State administrators and faculty report to trustees on the university’s latest interdisciplinary research successes and plans for the future under the strategic plan, which positions Ohio State as a national flagship public research university. Among other programs, the trustees this week are hearing presentations on biomedical, engineering and agricultural innovations and initiatives to ensure the university meets the highest standards of research integrity.

Looking to the future, “we will continue to foster a culture of multidisciplinary research in faculty hiring and mentoring, and we’re actively pursuing new ways to adapt and improve research support for faculty so they can thrive in a 21 st century academic research environment,” Moses said.

The university has initiated design planning for a new interdisciplinary research building with innovative and modern environments – a facility that “will be key to enabling us to attract outstanding faculty,” Moses said. Ohio State has also established an Office of Postdoctoral Affairs and launched a presidential postdoctoral fellowship program to recruit and support the best talent.

Moses added that the 2017 launch of the Infectious Diseases and Translational Data Analytics institutes will accelerate growth by bringing visibility to priority research areas and addressing high-impact issues that require an interdisciplinary approach to solutions.

Trustees also heard presentations about two examples of Ohio State research-based collaborations that drive economic development: the precision agriculture program housed in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis based in the College of Engineering. (See videos below.)

“This place is truly a powerhouse of generating new knowledge,” Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce A. McPheron told trustees. And with that status comes the responsibility to operate the enterprise with the highest standards of integrity, he said.

“I think we must talk about our belief in research integrity and academic integrity, and say out loud what it is we believe in,” McPheron said. “Our faculty, staff and students believe in those same things.”

Administrators and faculty have spent several months working on a research integrity plan that is in early stages of implementation, beginning with expansion of an intensive “responsible conduct of research” training requirement to an estimated 27,000 members of the research community. The university also has increased staffing in the area of research compliance and equipped labs and classrooms with electronic lab notebooks that enable institutional management of data during the creative process.

“There are more things moving along to reinforce this,” McPheron said. “We’ll see great benefits of having defined this set of expectations.”

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