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Posted on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 7:54 a.m.

$1.28B: University of Michigan top U.S. public college in research spending

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan has topped its public peers in research and development spending for the third year in a row, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation.


University of Michigan campus photo | Joseph Tobianski

The Ann Arbor school spent $1.28 billion on research during the 2010-11 fiscal year, up 8 percent from the previous year, according to the NSF.

Because NSF and U-M use different accounting standards, their tallies for research spending vary slightly. U-M reported a $1.24 billion research enterprise in 2011- lower than that reported by the NSF.

The university, home to roughly 43,400 graduate and undergraduate students, ranked second among all universities in research spending, with Johns Hopkins University in Maryland ranked first.

University of Washington at Seattle, the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Duke University ranked third, fourth and fifth on the NSF list, respectively.

The bulk of U-M research is federally funded, with U.S. government sources funding 64.1 percent of U-M's research enterprise during fiscal 2011. A large part of that share —$113 million— came from the 2009 stimulus package.

In September, U-M announced that it spent a record $1.27 billion in fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30. NSF’s fiscal year 2012 total for U-M will be included in the agency’s next annual report on R&D spending.

U-M first broke the $1 billion mark during fiscal 2009, when research funding totaled $1.016 billion, a 12 percent increase from $929 million in fiscal 2008.

"One (factor) obviously is just scale," U-M Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest told in October, speaking of why U-M continues to outperform its peers in research spending.

"But in some cases, like NIH, we're really hitting above our weight class. We're unusually good at interdisciplinary research where something like a system has to emerge from the research," Forrest continued.

"The recent example of the automobile safety pilot: There's very few universities that can conceive of wiring 3,000 automobiles to interact with each other, to get the town on board so that we can put up microwave stations and gather information through the town's Internet backbone. That's a big systems-level project."

Read the full NSF report.

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



Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Another mind numbing greatness list from the spin masters of the UM propaganda machine. I'm about ready to throw up reading why these people think they deserve to be called the leaders and best. Harvard, Yale and Princeton are hardly shaking in their boots when you say UM. Their typical response is "who". And that is precisely why these affirming articles are written.


Wed, Nov 28, 2012 : 3 p.m.

They know very well who we are and often hire our successful faculty. The Times of London ranks UM 15th in the world for all research universities, which is actually higher than the USNews national ranking. Although there is plenty of self promotion here, there are also other external objective assessments that bolster the reputation of the U.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 10:41 p.m.

On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition [Paperback]


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 10 p.m.

I really enjoyed reading this article.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 8:08 p.m.

"...Because NSF and U-M use different accounting standards, their tallies for research spending vary slightly..." Does one use imperial and the other metric? But, then again, what's $40 million ?

Steven Murphy

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

On the whole it sounds wonderful for the University and those that take pride in it. But I would be curious to know what exactly have been the tangible fruits of so much spending in the practical sense?


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.

I'd also like to know more about what kinds of projects get funded, particularly those that may be controversial or unethical, e.g., military and weapons technology. How much is spent helping to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction?


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

I like research spending but would prefer some of that money to stay here and help pay property taxes. Our state has the broadest prop tax exemption in the nation. It does not have to be this way. Mayor is on the payroll of the U and City Council is afraid to challenge status quo. Sad really, since if prop tax were lowered more u of m grads would stay here, instead of moving to more affordable cities. AA needs to go after U of M anyway it can. Audit its properties to ensure exempt status is not lost, uncap fraternities whose national organizations pay, in some cases, 1920's tax rates, find a way to put a surcharge on tickets to sporting events, make U of M pay for roads, more for police services..etc. It is not like the U is going to leave AA. Time for this city to stand up to this corporate giant.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

The people who do the research pay taxes. If they weren't here A2 would have considerably less economic development. Don't kill the golden goose.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

It does stay here. The amount of research conducted at the university employees thousands of people and with constant cuts from government research programs (NIH, etc) it is quite amazing the University continues to keep such high levels invested. Also most of the funds comes from research specific sources. It isn't coming from "here" to begin with and isn't coming "here" to help lower taxes if you reduce it, it is eliminated completely or send to another research institution. You should be saying more please! Last, it is very important for research to exist in an academic setting and not become completely privatized. Research in academic is shared in the community through publication; research in private is only patented and sold to the highest bidder or tossed out. The consumers (us) benefit from research in academics.

Dog Guy

Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

"There's very few universities that can . . . get the town on board" because other universities don't hire the local political boss.


Tue, Nov 27, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.