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Drive to Twenty Five Total & federal research & development expenditures report

Total and federal research and development expenditures report


The goal for this action plan, which combined efforts for two metrics, is to outline strategies to implement over the next three years that will lay the foundation to increase Federal and total research and development (R&D) expenditures. The 2030 Federal and total expenditure goals are as follows:

  • Federal R&D expenditures: $274,345,000
    • This amount is on par with the University of Colorado (Denver and Anschutz Medical campus), the FY2015 #25 ranked public university.
    • For FY2015, WSU’s Federal R&D expenditures were $134,889,000.
  • Total R&D expenditures: $516,229,000
    • This amount is on par with the University of Alabama Birmingham, the FY2015 #25 ranked public university.
    • For FY2015, WSU’s total R&D expenditures were $333,134,000.

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 Total R&D Expenditures metric is a peer-comparison metric, is quantitatively measureable, fits with WSU core values, and is commonly used by other universities. Both metrics are measured as reported by the NSF Higher Education Research and Development Survey (NSF HERD) report.

Total R&D expenditures consists of six components: Federal appropriations, state and local government, institution funds, Federal grants and contracts, industry (including businesses and nonprofit organizations), and all other. This is shown in the graph below.

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 (see below). 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:

  1. 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).
  2. Inclusivity is important­­—all colleges and departments must participate in the efforts to increase Federal and total R&D expenditures.
  3. Ranking and data information from the NSF HERD report is the appropriate metric to measure expenditures.

This report builds upon previous strategic planning and related efforts, including the Institutional Effectiveness Council, the 120-Day Study, and individual 2016 college plans for the Drive to 25 initiative. This report will outline a series of strategies and associated actions to increase Federal and total R&D expenditures. The WSU Research Council will oversee implementation of these strategies and actions starting in January 2018.


The following sections detail strategies and recommendations to grow Federal and total R&D expenditures in the long term, following the recovery period anticipated over the next three years. The strategies and recommendations are the result of a structured process that engaged the WSU community, including the President’s Cabinet, an executive council comprised of college Deans and Vice Presidents, and four focused working groups (Faculty, Chairs/Directors, Post-docs/Students, and Strategic Opportunities). An integration team comprised of representatives from each working group and selected associate deans for research worked with the Office of Research to compile input from these groups and prepare this report. Appendix A provides a full description of the process used to generate this document.

A. Overarching Strategies

The strategies in this section 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.”

Action A.1.1: WSU senior leadership should develop an effective budget review process that allows University programs to be assessed and prioritized. The criteria for prioritization must be carefully developed. In particular, the value of a given program can be measured in different ways, including financial impact; importance to the University’s educational; research, and outreach missions; maintenance of a vibrant intellectual environment; and other criteria. This process should include elements of shared governance between a collective group of scholars to ensure priority decision making.

Recommendation A.2

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

Action A.2.1: Build upon successes, and be careful not to compromise existing strengths. E.g., WSU performs well on DOE and USDA funding as a result of its strong research capabilities in key areas, and those strengths should be supported and enhanced as appropriate.

Action A.2.2: Incentivize the development of teams to compete for large interdisciplinary research proposals based on identified strengths.

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.

Action A.3.1: Create a central pool of funds for core laboratories and key infrastructure.

Action A.3.2: Evaluate and prioritize research infrastructure items that require strategic investment for future allocation.

Action A.3.3: Address small and non-equipment infrastructure needs and recommend targeted investments.

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.

Action A.4.1: Review current examples of risk aversion and their effects on the research enterprise. Identify and implement actions to mitigate these risks.

Action A.4.2: Develop comprehensive institutional risk management that creatively manages risk while enabling faculty to “push the envelope” in their scholarly and creative work.

B. 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.

Action B.1.1: Communicate, maintain, and encourage consistent research expenditure expectations.

Action B.1.2: Create systems to connect junior and senior faculty for mentoring and support.

Action B.1.3: Create a system for retention of high performing faculty (see Rec. B.7).

Action B.1.4: Ensure support and credit for faculty involved in multidisciplinary research, recognizing that high investment in multi-investigator awards typically results in high returns.

Action B.1.5: Retain important support staff.

Recommendation B.2

Grow the number of tenure/tenure track faculty.

Action B.2.1: Support growth of the faculty via a strategic approach to recruiting, including considering applicant’s current funding, research portfolio, industrial relationships, etc.

Recommendation B.3

Develop a system for recognition and reward of multidisciplinary research.

Action B.3.1: Develop a set of “best practices” when evaluating multidisciplinary research in annual performance reviews.

Action B.3.2: The Office of Research should consider sponsoring an award for multidisciplinary research.

Recommendation B.4

Balance and reallocate teaching and research workload.

Action B.4.1: Review and analyze current teaching workloads, and shift loads to match strengths and increase productivity.

Recommendation B.5

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

Action B.5.1: Consider effective partner accommodation and duration of funding for these positions.

Action B.5.2: Create central lines and a central pool for start-up funds.

Action B.5.3: Hire into strategic focus areas, including positions associated with addressing “Grand Challenge” problems of broad societal interest (see Rec. 3 below).

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.

Action B.6.1: Continue current efforts to revise the WSU Grand Challenges, including incorporating students, philanthropic activities, and external stakeholders at the early stages of the process.

Recommendation B.7

Develop a proactive approach to retention.

Action B.7.1: Implement practices that identify faculty at risk of external recruitment at an early stage.

Action B.7.2: Train leadership across the spectrum, including chairs and directors, to be more aware of faculty performance and thereby recognize faculty who are at risk of departure.

Action B.7.3: Increase the number of Distinguished Professorships to recognize outstanding faculty.

Action B.7.4: Maintain funding to direct toward faculty identified as “high risk” for departure.

C. 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).

Action C.2.1: Analyze models used by other universities, including the Penn State Central Institutes model.

Recommendation C.3

Structure CILs to be externally visible for funding opportunities.

Action C.3.1: Create strategies on how to communicate with sponsors.

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.

D. Cultivating 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.

Action D.1.1: Create a strategic communication plan that provides academic units with actionable information on WSU’s Federal engagement priorities, supports feedback on the implementation of those priorities, and details the importance of collaboration.

Action D.1.2: Educate key faculty on available opportunities to engage federal contacts, best practices to maximize the impact of engagement activities, and opportunities to connect individual engagement activities with WSU’s overall engagement objectives.

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.

Action D.2.1: Analyze WSU’s federal funding portfolio to assess strengths, potential growth opportunities, and vulnerabilities.

Action D.2.2: Develop a strategy to identify funding opportunities at target agencies and educate faculty about opportunities from those agencies—e.g., DOD funding for R&D is increasing. How can WSU faculty engage early to effect funding opportunities, what opportunities are available, and what makes proposals attractive to DOD program officers?

Action D.2.3: Continue to develop and disseminate resources to support the development of team-based proposals, center grants, and post-award structures to support the effective administration of large and complex inter-institutional research projects.

E. 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.

Action E.3.1: Look for opportunities to raise start-up funds.

Action E.3.2: Seek partnerships that provide faculty positions and program funding.

Action E.3.3: Educate faculty on developing philanthropic relationships, including the concept that it is not necessarily the quality or breadth of a research idea, but whether the idea inspires support that matters.

F. 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.

Action F.1.1: Grow individual connections between WSU faculty and R&D leaders in industry.

Action F.1.2: Develop, foster, and propagate a portfolio of flexible modes for faculty to initiate projects with industry.

Action F.1.3: Incentivize and support both service center work and consulting (critical outreach activities).

Action F.1.4: Engage in a risk analysis on how projects can be funded to identify mechanisms that simplify and enable seed projects with industrial partners.

Recommendation F.2

Continue ERIE report implementation.

G. 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.

H. 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.

A. 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.

  1. Prioritization: Development of a budget process to support assessment and prioritization of WSU programs.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
B. Outcomes for faculty strategies
  1. Begin implementation of strategies to enhance non-state funding, e.g., joint appointments and partnerships.
  2. Develop a focused Grand Challenge question to motivate a large hiring package.
  3. Increase faculty productivity and capacity.
C. Outcomes for strategies to streamline and enhance centers, institutes, laboratories
  1. Establish and fund impactful, interdisciplinary research units that have been informed by an external study process of successful models at peer universities.
  2. Streamline the processes for managing and funding centers, including timely approval and review processes.
  3. Develop metrics for measuring CIL performance and approval/termination of CILs.
D. Outcomes for strategies to increase philanthropic activities
  1. Establish focused fundraising targets in support of research.
  2. Define research questions that are compelling to potential donors.
E. 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:

  1. Increased visibility of WSU strengths and focus with key Federal agencies and increased agency funding to WSU.
  2. Better understanding among faculty and administrators regarding the needs and future directions of agency research.
F. 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:

  1. Fully implement the ERIE report recommendations.
    a. Clarify and communicate the mission.
    b. Support the mission.
    c. Develop incentives.
    d. Tighten the focus of the Office of Commercialization.
    e. Overhaul the Conflict of Interest process.
    f. Build on innovation and entrepreneurship momentum at WSU-Spokane.
  2. Establish and streamline processes and recognition mechanisms to facilitate faculty engagement with industrial partners.
G. Outcome for enhancing centralized investment policies

Establish a mechanism at the University level for creating and maintaining a centralized pool for strategic investments.

H. Outcomes for student and post-doc support
  1. Consolidate information about the existing programs, identify gaps, and create resources to fill the gaps (e.g. grant writing, publication writing, etc.).
  2. 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.


Drive to 25: Research and Development Expenditures Action Group Charge

Drive to 25: Washington State University (WSU) will be recognized as one of the nation’s top 25 public research universities, preeminent in research and discovery, teaching, and engagement by 2030.

The Drive to 25 builds on the institutional Strategic Plan and its two pivotal goals:

  1. To offer a transformative educational experience to undergraduate and graduate students
  2. To accelerate the development of a preeminent research portfolio

After discussions about the Drive to 25 across the WSU system during fall 2016, the campus deans and senior leadership team chose 11 metrics to measure progress toward the goal of achieving recognized status as one of the top 25 public research universities in the U.S. For each of these metrics, President Schulz has charged WSU leadership with developing a three-year action plan to be distributed for comment in November 2017.

Federal and Total Research and Development expenditures are two of the Drive to 25 metrics. The metrics are measured as reported by the NSF Higher Education Research and Development Survey (NSF HERD) report, which shows WSU at the following expenditures and rank (for FY2015, the latest data available):

  • Federal R&D Expenditures/Rank/Public Rank: $134,889,000/85/54
    • The FY2015 #25 public ranked University is the University of Colorado (Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus), which has $274,345,000 in Federal R&D expenditures.
  • Total R&D Expenditures/Rank/Public Rank: $333,134,000/68/43
    • The FY2015 #25 public ranked University is the University of Alabama Birmingham, which has $516,229,000 in total R&D expenditures.
Drive to 25 Research and Development (D25 R&D) Action Plan Group Overview

The D25 R&D Action Plan Group will produce a report outlining a plan for FY2018–2020 that will guide efforts to significantly grow both Federal and total R&D expenditures by 2030.

Specifically, the report will:

  • Define the research expenditure metrics and how they are measured.
  • Propose specific structural improvements in WSU’s research enterprise needed to support growing expenditures.
  • Identify gaps in the current funding portfolio.
  • Recommend specific strategies for increasing all types of research expenditures (Federal, state, local, industry, foundation, other non-profit, institution, philanthropic giving) and for gaining efficiencies within the research enterprise (e.g., economies of scale), to put WSU on a trajectory to achieve the goal of increasing total/Federal research expenditures to $516M/$274M by 2030.

The D25 R&D Action Plan Group effort is targeted and focused—gathering recommendations from diverse stakeholder groups and synthesizing the strongest recommendations into a report by November 2017. After completion of the report, the WSU Research Council (WSURC) will develop tactics to pursue the strategies recommended in the report, actions to implement those tactics, and methods to determine whether actions taken are effective. As the group charged with developing and implementing plans to advance research, scholarship, and creativity at WSU, the WSU Research Council is ideally positioned to efficiently combine the D25 R&D Action Plan recommendations with existing efforts to implement the WSU Strategic Plan Theme 1, “Exceptional Research, Innovation, and Creativity.”


The D25 R&D Action Plan Group is co-chaired by Christopher Keane, Vice President for Research, and Michael Wolcott, Regents Professor and Associate Vice President for Research.

The D25 R&D Action Plan Group will consist of an Executive Committee, an Integration Team, and several stakeholder or topic-focused working groups.

  • Each working group will discuss key issues related to assigned topics and present recommendations to the Integration Team.
  • Selected members of the WSU Research Council will serve as the core of the Integration Team. In addition, each working group will nominate a designee to serve as a member of the Integration Team. The Integration Team will review the recommendations of the working groups and select recommendations for a draft Action Plan for review by the Executive Committee. Office of Research staff will assist the Integration Team with production of the draft Action Plan.
  • The Executive Committee will review the draft Action Plan presented by the Integration Team and provide feedback. The Executive Committee will approve the final Action Plan and present the Plan to President Kirk Schulz and the WSU Research Council.
  • The WSU Research Council will drive the effort to implement the Action Plan, utilizing implementation groups as needed.
    Staff from the Office of Research, with assistance from involved colleges, will provide data to the working groups as needed (for example, R&D expenditures information and comparisons to peer institutions, campus or department level views of expenditure information, etc.).