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Posted on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Uncertain future for research funding 'worrisome' for University of Michigan

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan has one of the largest research enterprises of any university in the country.

Stephen Forrest.jpg

Stephen Forrest

File photo |

But research director Stephen Forrest is warning U-M officials that because of the economic climate, spending cuts in Washington, D.C., and an overall reduction of research dollars nationwide, U-M must be vigilant if it wants to maintain its place among the research elite.

"We're entering a more somber time ... a time of flat or declining federal research funding in the United States," Forrest said before the U-M Board of Regents Thursday, calling the growth forecast for the next five to 10 years "worrisome."

Michigan's research enterprise was worth about $1.24 billion last year, just under its roughly $1.3 billion academic enterprise, Forrest said.

However, the school relies heavily on federal research funding. Last year, it received more than $570 million from the National Institutes of Health alone. That's 48 percent of last year's research funding.

"We have to be concerned a little bit, or a lot, about the lack of diversification," Forrest told the regents.

The university funds roughly 25 percent of its research itself, using general fund revenue and donations.

In the coming years, Forrest said, U-M can expect to see no or little growth in federal research dollars as lawmakers look to trim budgets and appease their constituents.

He said that while lawmakers in Washington have shown support for innovation and research in past years, the current political climate is likely not hospitable to research spending.

"When you talk to the American people they see the stuff that benefits them and that’s it," Forrest said. "And our elected officals have to contend with that."

The $97 million, 8.5 percent growth in research spending U-M experienced last year was more the confluence of fortunate events than the mark of a trend, Forrest said.

"We dodged a bullet," he said.

To maintain its research enterprise, the university will need to encourage faculty to submit more proposals and begin submitting proposals earlier in their career, Forrest proffered. Currently most U-M faculty don't assume the helm of a major research project until they reach their early 40s.

Further, he said, the school needs to tap into the offerings of the recently acquired 2.2 million-square-foot former Pfizer complex, which U-M renamed the North Campus Research Complex.

"It’s a great unexplored but rapidly developing new resource for this university," Forrest said of NCRC.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 6:20 p.m.

This article says nothing.


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Elaborate just a wee bit. There's a headline, some statement and interview/quotation from a source to back the story up. Short but sweet is better than the alternative.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

How about if we stop subsidizing foreign graduate students with US taxpayer funded grants and tuition. If their home countries want them educated they should provide their stipend and tuition. We spend more than $60,000 per year for each graduate student or post-doc. That adds up to more than $400,000 for the average 7 years it take to get a PhD. I am sure that China would have paid for its Chinese scientist who came to UM to study orbits and trajectories since she was already working for the People's Liberation Army on their anti-satellite weapons program. How about the student who worked on making lighter heat shields for ballistic missile nose cones so that they could carry bigger bombs? Why should American taxpayers pay for foreign students to come and acquire our skills and secrets? Read more at <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Jan 21, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

While we're talking conspiracy theories let me get my tinfoil hat on. China and other countries would be well served by exploiting our programs we offer but UM in no way would cater to this behavior in an effort to inflate its research, or any other program, at the taxpayers expense. Dry that one out and you can fertilize the lawn with it.

Ron Granger

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

Maybe the military industrial complex will throw us a bone.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2 p.m.

The fear is that research dollars from the &quot;TaxPayer&quot; will not increase but it will also not be reduced. So, researchers are going to have to do it faster,smarter and with the same amount of money! What a terrible future!

Usual Suspect

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Agree. Sound a lot like the real world, doesn't it? Academics really hate it when real world sanity sneaks into their realm.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

Fear mongering... there will always be football to rely on. Who needs research &amp; academics? First things first.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

Pfizer complex is an untapped resource- does that mean that they just plan to collect money by renting it to private individuals?


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

The education bubble ia about to burst. There are no more gummy bears in the Obama basket. It is likely he will be defeated in November. Buckle up @ UM there will be a fire sale on pre owned Prius's in about 18 months. By then we will be underway on Regional transit so no prob.


Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

@InsideTheHall: Oh, I'll definitely take that bet that Obama will be out in November, and I'll double the wager. Republicans are their own worst enemies right now and the fractured party won't come around to unity despite their collective disapproval of Obama. They're dealing with the same stresses that the Democratic Party dealt with during the Reagan-Bush era, where small factions within the party wield outsized influence that ends up disaffecting the rank-and-file. Look for the Republicans to have their next shot at Pennslyvania Avenue somewhere in 2016.

Rork Kuick

Fri, Jan 20, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

Prediction is very hard, especially about the future. It may be true that more Republicans typically means less research and education spending.