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Drive to Twenty Five Federal research & development plan

Federal research and development expenditures plan (draft)

2030 goal

Raise expenditures to $274M from $135M (FY2015)

  • Goal amount on par with the University of Colorado (Denver and Anschutz medical campus), the FY2015 #25 ranked public university



Click graph to enlarge | Graph description


The federal R&D Expenditures metric is an AAU metric, chosen because the Drive to 25 maintains WSU’s long-standing aspirations to gain membership in the AAU. The metrics is measured as reported by the NSF Higher Education Research and Development Survey (NSF HERD) report.

WSU has seen growth in total R&D expenditures reported to NSF in the last two decades, despite a relatively slow growth in the Total Federal R&D Budget Authority. However, the last six years have shown little improvement in the WSU Total or Federal metrics. In order to achieve a #25 public ranking, it is necessary to enhance the rate of growth of research expenditures. It should also be noted that the increases in approximately FY2002-2008 are largely due to accounting changes that more accurately reflected WSU internal contributions.


The key assumptions are as follows:

  • The strategies and actions in this plan primarily address the period FY2018-FY2020. During this period, WSU will be in a period of budget recovery. This will constrain the rate of faculty hires, infrastructure improvements, and other investments needed to support enhanced research expenditures. Thus, during this period, WSU will be laying the foundation for improving research expenditures in FY2020 and beyond. Prioritization activities will be required to generate necessary investment funds (see Sec. 3.A, below).
  • Inclusivity is important—all colleges and departments must participate in the efforts to increase Federal and total R&D expenditures.
  • Ranking and data information from the NSF HERD report is the appropriate metric to measure expenditures.
Overarching strategies

These strategies apply University-wide, and are intended to effect consistent improvements and begin a culture shift across all areas of WSU involved in research, scholarship, and creativity.

Recommendation A.1: Prioritize University programs to generate funds for investments necessary to grow the research enterprise and other high priority University activities. In particular, it is as important to decide “what not to do” as it is to decide “what to do.”

Recommendation A.2: Build upon existing strengths (identified in Recommendation A.1).

Recommendation A.3: Develop a sustainable funding model for research infrastructure. The WSU research infrastructure requires improvement to support continued research competitiveness, and WSU must create a dedicated funding stream to support major equipment purchases in core laboratories. Recommendations to this effect appear in the 120-Day Study and F&A Task Force report, with studies supporting this recommendation.

Recommendation A.4: WSU is often highly risk-averse, a position which negatively impacts the University’s ability to pursue particular funding opportunities. The University needs to reduce the culture of risk aversion.

Faculty strategies

Enhancing research expenditures will require strengthening the WSU faculty and the infrastructure that supports it. The recommendations below are aimed at strengthening the University’s ability to recruit, retain, and support faculty. These recommendations also take into account the need to increase the number of tenure/tenure track faculty at WSU—the University’s current and aspirational peers generally have at least 300 more tenure/tenure track faculty than WSU.

Recommendation B.1: Improve productivity among existing faculty.

Recommendation B.2: Grow the number of tenure/tenure track faculty.

Recommendation B.3: Develop a system for recognition and reward of multidisciplinary research.

Recommendation B.4: Balance and reallocate teaching and research workload.

Recommendation B.5: Reorganize funding to a central funding model, partnering departments with the Office of Research for new hires.

Recommendation B.6: Develop the “next step” to the Grand Challenges—a Challenge that is multidisciplinary, phrased as a compelling question or problem, inspires philanthropic and industry relationships, and is of sufficient scope to seek funding from a variety of federal agencies, the state legislature, and other sources to support at least 50 new faculty positions.

Recommendation B.7: Develop a proactive approach to retention.

Strategies to streamline and enhance centers, institutes, laboratories

Centers, institutes, and laboratories (CILs) are research units that enable the University to address cross-cutting interdisciplinary research problems that span specific academic departments, colleges, or campuses. There is a need for such units to reach across traditional lines and establish stronger relationships with academic units. Too often, they can compete or appear to compete with the academic units for existing incentives or credit. However, it is recognized that their focus on crosscutting activities facilitates their success in competing for large interdisciplinary grants.

Recommendation C.1: The Faculty Senate and the Office of Research have jointly chartered a task force to examine CILs. This task force should produce specific recommendations for:

  • Development of metrics to measure CIL productivity.
  • Criteria for formation and termination of CILs.
  • Criteria for CIL success, including achievement of financial and administrative sustainability.

Recommendation C.2: Explore alternative models for CIL management and organization (a recommendation consistent with the external review of the strategic reallocation projects).

Recommendation C.3: Structure CILs to be externally visible for funding opportunities.

Recommendation C.4: Determine the appropriate administration of CILs, including placing responsibility within the Office of Research (or an equivalent unit) for research-based CILs.

Strategies to cultivate a culture of federal engagement

Research funding is impacted by the changing political environment in Washington, D.C. Priorities shift with changes in Congress and the Administration, and WSU must be able to take advantage of these opportunities. Despite changes in recent years, the Federal Government remains the largest single investor in higher education research and development, funding approximately 60% of WSU R&D. Because of the changing environment, visible impact and opportunities to engage with Agency and Congressional experts, a proactive approach that involves the campus research community with WSU’s federal engagement strategy is necessary.

Recommendation D.1. Identify best practices to interconnect the goals of WSU’s academic enterprise with goals and objectives of WSU’s Federal engagement strategy.

Recommendation D.2. Develop new relationships with federal agencies and take proactive steps to adapt to changing funding models (e.g., continued growth of collaborations and large team-based proposals), in order to grow federal research expenditures in the face of an unpredictable funding environment.

Strategies to increase philanthropic activities

Philanthropic development can be a powerful tool to developing flexible funds for developing strategic research investments. When a donor’s sphere of interest matches a faculty research strength, significant effort must go into developing the connection. Although WSU has not widely used this approach in the past, where donors have been targeted for strategic research development, it has been highly successful (e.g., Allen School of Global Animal Health).

Recommendation E.1: Develop a strategic process to determine development goals and connect philanthropic activities to high-impact, multi-disciplinary research (e.g., Grand Challenges, specific centers, etc.).

Recommendation E.2: Provide notification to faculty regarding WSU Foundation activities early in processes where funding may be related to specific research.

Recommendation E.3: Leverage philanthropic activities that enhance support for research.

Strategies to enhance industrial engagement

Although federally sponsored research is a single category for assessing research competitiveness at universities, the Total Research Expenditure category captures several sponsor categories, including “Business.” The WSU-commissioned External Review for Industry and Entrepreneurship (ERIE) report cited industrially funded research as an area that needs improvement. Industry- and business-sponsored research are typically more mission-oriented and strategic towards the needs of individual companies. It often requires a greater amount of relationship building to understand these needs and develop useful approaches.

Recommendation F.1: Encourage an entrepreneurial culture.

Recommendation F.2: Continue ERIE report implementation.

Centralized investment policies

Research success requires dynamic, risk-taking culture with low administrative barriers. This requires support of the current expectation for faculty to succeed, in addition to investments to encourage faculty to excel.

Recommendation G.1: Create investments that encourage faculty to continue creative and scholarly research.

Recommendation G.2: Consider consistent investments in centers and multi-disciplinary research.

Recommendation G.3: Structure investments around individuals and groups, considering that incentives are almost always linked to funds. Structure programs, contracts, etc., in ways that “reward” success with funded research.

Recommendation G.4: Determine management of unit-by-unit investments vs. University-wide investments.

Recommendation G.5: Structure support staff and processes to effectively assist faculty in the pre- and post-award processes, both centrally and within units.

Recommendation G.6: Track growth in faculty and expenditures and provide ORSO and SPS resources to support growth.

Student and postdoctoral research associate/fellow (post-doc) support

The success of the research enterprise requires building a new generation of high-quality researchers. In addition, recruitment and retention of quality students and post-docs is important to the many facets of research at WSU.

Recommendation H.1: Create, encourage, and communicate resources to help increase and improve publication writing for graduate students and post-docs.

Recommendation H.2: Provide mentorship training for faculty advisors.

Recommendation H.3: Encourage mentoring accountability among the students/post-docs and among the faculty.

Expected outcomes

Based on the assumptions stated regarding the budget recovery period, the expectation is not to necessarily see a dramatic increase in R&D expenditures in the next three years, although an increase is required to meet the 2030 goal. Rather, the expected outcome is a clear prioritization of investments in order to lay the foundation for the significant increase in R&D expenditures.

Outcomes for overarching strategies

The top priority strategies in this plan are to prioritize programs and investments and build upon existing strengths. The system-wide outcomes for these strategies will be to establish processes for examining the University budget, setting priorities, and making investments.

  • Prioritization: Development of a budget process to support assessment and prioritization of WSU programs.
  • Infrastructure: The outcome for the focus on infrastructure coordination and improvement is to provide a dedicated pool of funds for core laboratories and other selected University infrastructure, as determined by a faculty advisory committee.
  • Risk management: Establish processes that quantify risk, including assessments of risk and decision making, and that take into account willingness to take on risk across all University elements. This will be done in coordination with the Risk Management Committee.
Outcomes for faculty strategies
  • Begin implementation of strategies to enhance non-state funding, e.g., joint appointments and partnerships.
  • Develop a focused Grand Challenge question to motivate a large hiring package.
  • Increase faculty productivity and capacity.
Outcomes for strategies to streamline and enhance centers, institutes, laboratories
  • Establish and fund impactful, interdisciplinary research units that have been informed by an external study process of successful models at peer universities.
  • Streamline the processes for managing and funding centers, including timely approval and review processes.
  • Develop metrics for measuring CIL performance and approval/termination of CILs.
Outcomes for strategies to increase philanthropic activities
  • Establish focused fundraising targets in support of research.
  • Define research questions that are compelling to potential donors.
Outcomes for strategies to enhance Federal agency interaction

Enhanced interactions with Federal agencies is critical to improving WSU’s research enterprise. Successful implementation of this recommendation should result in the following:

  • Increased visibility of WSU strengths and focus with key Federal agencies and increased agency funding to WSU.
  • Better understanding among faculty and administrators regarding the needs and future directions of agency research.
Outcomes for strategies to enhance industrial engagement

The strategies and outcomes to enhance industrial engagement have largely been informed by the ERIE report, conducted in November 2016 and in implementation beginning January 2017. The specific outcomes for the next three-year period are as follows:

  • Fully implement the ERIE report recommendations.
  • Establish and streamline processes and recognition mechanisms to facilitate faculty engagement with industrial partners.
Outcome for enhancing centralized investment policies
  • Establish a mechanism at the University level for creating and maintaining a centralized pool for strategic investments.
Outcomes for student and post-doc support
  • Consolidate information about the existing programs, identify gaps, and create resources to fill the gaps (e.g. grant writing, publication writing, etc.).
  • Faculty will be aware of the current need for mentoring improvement and have access to a mentoring manual.

The activities, outcomes, recommendations, and strategies will be measured using the NSF HERD Report metrics described in Section 1. In addition, the Office of Research will continue to work with Institutional Research for faculty counts and track dollars spent on core lab infrastructure. Finally, the Research Council and the Office of Research will periodically report the progress on each recommendation. Metrics specific to each recommendation and action will be developed by the Research Council as appropriate.

Committee and working group members

Executive Committee

The executive committee will be composed of deans and chancellors (with advisory support from vice presidents for Information Technology, International Programs, Government Relations and External Affairs, and University Marketing and Communications).


To review the draft and final Action Plan Report and submit the Report to President Schulz. To support implementation efforts by the WSU Research Council.

  • Christopher Keane, Office of Research
  • Michael Wolcott, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Bill Andrefsky, Department of Anthropology
  • Mary Rezac, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture
  • Joyce Griffin-Sobel, College of Nursing, WSU Spokane
  • Daryll DeWald, Chancellor’s Office, WSU Spokane
  • Larry Hunter, Carson College of Business
  • Ron Mittelhammer, College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences
  • Bruce Pinkleton, Murrow College of Communication
  • Gary Pollack, College of Pharmacy, WSU Spokane
  • John Tomkowiak, Floyd College of Medicine, WSU Spokane
  • Bryan Slinker, College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Michael Trevisan, College of Education
President’s Cabinet members

The President’s Cabinet members are members of the President’s Cabinet tasked by President Schulz to oversee the action plan.

  • Daryll DeWald, Chancellor’s Office, WSU Spokane;
  • Colleen Kerr, Government Relations and External Affairs
  • Stacy Pearson, Finance and Administration
Integration team

Charge: To review the recommendations of the working groups and WSU Research Council, integrate the selected recommendations into a draft Action Plan Report for review by the Executive Committee and Action Plan group, and prepare the final Action Plan Report. The Integration Team will also ensure that system-level topics are addressed and included in the action plan. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Research infrastructure and core facilities;
  • Strategic external partnerships;
  • Cross-college/campus collaborations;
  • Opportunities to build upon faculty research areas that span disciplines; and
  • Relationship between centers, institutes, and labs and academic departments
  • Christopher Keane, Office of Research
  • Michael Wolcott, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

One representative from each working group and selected members of the WSU Research Council, assisted by Office of Research staff.

WSU Research Council

Charge: To implement the proposed Action Plan to increase Federal and total R&D expenditures. The Research Council will continue to meet monthly to report on progress, discuss implementation strategies, and evolve the implementation plan as necessary. The Research Council may assign implementation groups comprised of its members to work on topics, as necessary.


The Research Council is composed of the Associate Deans for Research and the Vice Chancellors for Research.

Working groups

Each working group is intended either to represent the perspective of stakeholder groups or to focus on a particular subject area. Each group will be asked to meet twice between July and September. Topic areas have been identified for each working group. Additional topics may be added by group consensus. Each working group is charged with providing recommendations specifically to increase total and Federal R&D expenditures.

Chairs/directors working group

Charge: This group will focus on recommendations at the department/unit level to increase total (e.g., Federal, state, industry, private foundations, gift) and Federal R&D expenditures. They will evaluate current practices across departments and identify best practices for:

  • Faculty recruitment, retention, and development;
  • Performance expectations and incorporation into 3-year, tenure, and promotion reviews;
  • Mentoring needs for junior and mid-level faculty;
  • Interdisciplinary research efforts;
  • Relationship between research units (centers, institutes, and laboratories) and academic departments; and
  • Central services support of faculty.
  • Tom Kawula, Allen School for Global Animal Health
  • Kirk Peterson, Department of Chemistry
  • Amy Wharton, College of Arts and Sciences, WSU Vancouver
  • Akram Hossain, School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, WSU Tri-Cities
  • Jonathan Jones, School of Molecular Biosciences
  • Jon Yoder, State of Washington Water Research Center
  • Glen Duncan,  Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, WSU Spokane
  • Don Bender, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Andrew Duff, Department of Anthropology
  • Jim Petersen, School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering
Faculty working group

Charge: This group will focus on recommendations at the PI/Co-I/Collaborator level to increase total (e.g., Federal, state, industry, private foundations, gift) and Federal R&D expenditures. They will evaluate current practices among investigators and identify best practices for:

  • How to improve productivity – both incoming funding (Federal, state, industry, etc.) and generated results (articles, presentations, patents, h-index, grad students advised, etc.) – on a large scale;
  • Relationship between research units (centers, institutes, and laboratories) and academic departments;
  • Productivity-promoting incentives to faculty for pursuing extramural funding.
  • Nathalie Wall, Department of Chemistry
  • Hans Van Dongen, Sleep and Performance Research Center, WSU Spokane
  • Christine Horne, Department of Sociology
  • Steve Bollens, School of the Environment, WSU Vancouver
  • Xiao Zhang, School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, WSU Tri-Cities
  • Anthony Nicola, Department Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology
  • Stephen Ficklin, Department of Horticulture
  • John McCloy, School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering
Post-doc and student working group

Charge: This group will focus on recommendations to increase total (e.g., Federal, state, industry, private foundations, gift) and Federal R&D expenditures based on the following topics:

  • Preparation for future research positions;
  • Routes to timely publications;
  • Mentoring needs to foster impactful outputs; and
  • Other related areas.
  • Keerthi Srinivas, Bioproducts, Sciences, & Engineering Laboratory, WSU Tri-Cities
  • Amir Gilmore, Cultural Studies Program
  • Richard Felix, Hearing and Communication Lab, WSU Vancouver
  • Keesha Matz, School of Molecular Biosciences
  • Julliana Brutman, Neuroscience Program
Strategic opportunities working group

Charge: This topical working group will:

  • Review data of WSU funding from all sources (e.g., Federal, state, industry, private foundations, gift);
  • Identify opportunities for increasing research funding (e.g., potential new funding agencies, contract research, etc.); and
  • Discuss the relationship between research units (centers, institutes, and laboratories) and academic departments.
  • Michael Wolcott, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Geeta Dutta, Office of Research
  • Patricia Glazebrook, School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs
  • Guy Palmer, Allen School for Global Animal Health
  • Brian Kraft, Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology
  • Glynda Becker, Office of Federal Relations
  • John Peters, Institute of Biological Chemistry
  • Chad Kruger,  Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources

Full report

Read the working group report