by Herschel Pollard
Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center climbed seven spots in a survey by the National Science Foundation that measures annual research and development expenditures.
“Our upward leap in these important rankings sends a clear signal: We are already building tremendous momentum and moving swiftly ahead on the vision laid out in Discovery Vanderbilt, our initiative to catalyze discovery and dramatically expand our research funding and impact,” Provost C. Cybele Raver said. “This achievement reflects the hard work and creativity of faculty and staff across the university. And the most exciting part of it is that we are just getting started.”
The combined forces of Vanderbilt University and VUMC, with research and development expenditures exceeding $1 billion in 2021, reach 10th among private research universities and 24th overall. It was the first time in more than a decade that Vanderbilt landed in the top 25 of the NSF’s annual Higher Education Research and Development Survey, exhibiting Vanderbilt’s dedication to continuing excellence and increasing global impact.
The “survey is the primary source of information … for research and development expenditures within higher education institutions in the United States and outlying areas,” according to the NSF’s HERD Survey website, making it a good way to compare Vanderbilt to peer institutions.
Vanderbilt came in 10th place among private institutions, up from 18th place the previous year, ranking above other research powerhouses like Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Southern California and Emory University.
With VUMC serving as a nationally leading medical institution, life sciences-related research makes up the bulk of expenditures, with more than $800 million spent in 2021. Since 2020, VUMC has led the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with research including a nationwide study of “convalescent plasma” as a treatment for COVID-19 and development of human monoclonal antibodies as potential treatment.
“These rankings reflect the power of Vanderbilt’s collaborative culture, where working closely together to advance knowledge and drive innovation is innate. Our faculty are relentlessly competitive, seeking to address the most challenging problems facing the nation and mankind, such as COVID. These factors helped contribute to this remarkable increase in research and development and the resulting impact,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer of VUMC and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Vanderbilt’s research and development grew over the past decade at twice the rate of all reporting institutions in the survey. The expenditure amount in 2021, totaling more than $1 billion, was 80% more than 2011’s amount. The expenditure amount contributed more than 62% of all expenditures made by reporting institutions, public and private, in Tennessee.
Vanderbilt and VUMC received more than 3,100 external awards, provided by government entities, nonprofit organizations, businesses and other sources, totaling more than $1 billion.