Research money hits record level at USD

The University of South Dakota received a record amount of research money in 2010.

USD was awarded $36.5 million in research money, which is up from $29 million in 2009, a 28 percent increase.

"It's good news, and we haven't seen the percentage jump like that in recent years," said USD vice president for research Laura Jenski.

But she said there is still room to grow. "It is our goal to increase the research money we receive still," she said. "The strategic plan for USD is to double the amount we receive. In four years, we would like that number to be in the $50 to $60 million range, which we are on course to do."

One of the reasons USD saw more research money is because of the increase in large grants it receives.

"We have several large grants, and we saw a renewal of a couple of grants, like the NFH grants," Jenski said. "We also had some new, large grants. We got a nursing grant that was $5 million right there."

The other reason for the increased amount of research grants USD received was because of faculty grants.
"We have been successful in getting faculty grants, especially from our new faculty," Jenski said. "They aren't big grants, but with the combination of big grants with individual faculty grants, that's how we can be successful."

When Jenski took over as vice president of research five years ago, she wanted to make it easier for faculty to apply for grants.

USD now has a director of support systems and a grant specialist who can help with submitting grant proposals.

"We built a support system for the faculty," Jenski said. "We try and streamline the some of the routine paperwork. We also have staff that can help with more of the applied research, or staff that helps patent inventions."

Jenski said the faculty has embraced the support system they have to apply for grants, which is one of the reasons grants have increased.

"I think the faculty deserves credit for being aggressive on writing proposals for grants," she said. Part of money USD receives for research money is tied to public service, and Jenski said the university has worked hard to make research more of a priority.

"Of the dollars we received, the amount of research money was equal to the public service money," she said. "Now it's two 2-to-1 in favor of research. Public service projects are important, but we see research as the primary mission, so it was important to increase that."

The research money isn't just going to the USD Vermillion campus. Jenski said the G.E.A.R. (Graduated Education Applied Research) in Sioux Falls has been key in receiving research money.

"The G.E.A.R center does applied research, and the biomedical faculty has been aggressive in getting money," she said. "They work to license innovations in tissue engineering and drug delivery among other things."

Jenski said the next step is to not just keep the amount of research money where it is now, but to also increase it.

"Our big task now is to figure out how to sustain growth, and we need to increase sponsorship by 15 percent to reach $50 to $60 million in four years," she said.

Jenski said one of the ways USD can sustain and increase its research money is to have new programs apply for grants.

This past year, the School of Education and USD's Fine Arts department both submitted proposals.

"As these programs become more active, we can sustain this growth," Jenski said.

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