UNH broke its record for competitive research funding, closing fiscal year 2020 with $129,815,354 in new grants and contracts. It’s the most external research funding the university has received in a single year, supporting UNH projects that range from improving preschool education in New Hampshire to bringing sustainable seafood to the table.
“I’m excited about the new opportunities that these grants represent for basic and applied research, extension and economic development.”
“I am proud of our scholars who, despite the significant challenges posed by the pandemic, submitted highly competitive research proposals, and of the staff in research development and administration who partner with them,” says Marian McCord, senior vice provost of research, economic engagement and outreach. “I’m excited about the new opportunities that these grants represent for basic and applied research, extension and economic development.”
Funding came to projects from across the university; approximately 30% of UNH faculty submit proposals for grants and contracts. The Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space (EOS), UNH’s largest research center, received $60.2 million, the largest share of external funding in FY20. The College of Health and Human Services, home to a preschool development grant of $26.8 million over three years, received $23.6 million. Funding to the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture was $11.7 million; the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences received $9 million; $5.3 million went to the College of Liberal Arts, $4.8 million to Extension, $3.1 million to Paul College, $740,000 to UNH Manchester, and $60,000 to UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law.
Among the projects funded:
- A major preschool development initiative in New Hampshire, funded by $26.8 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will engage diverse community partners throughout the state. Led by assistant professor of family studies and human development Kim Nesbitt, it is the single largest grant to a faculty member in the College of Health and Human Services.
- Two grants from the Office of Naval Research totaling $3.2 million will advance the ocean acoustics research of research professor Jennifer Miksis-Olds and UNH’s Center for Acoustics Research and Education, which she directs.
- With a prestigious National Science Foundation early CAREER grant of $903,581, assistant professor of mathematics education Orly Buchbinder will address a knowledge gap in understanding how new teachers utilize reasoning and proving in their classrooms.
- Professor of anthropology Meghan Howey, named a 2020 Andrew Carnegie Fellow, received $200,000 with that honor to explore the socioecological “shock” of colonialism and the lasting imprint of colonial legacies in the current geological age.
- Several grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Saltonstall-Kennedy program will improve sustainability of the region’s fishing and aquaculture industries and bring better seafood to the table.
The federal government was the largest source of funding, sending $90.6 million to UNH, led by its Department of Health and Human Services ($19.1 million), National Science Foundation ($18 million) and NASA ($12 million). Research funding from business and industry — a promising source of research support as federal grants become more competitive — totaled $14.9 million, climbing steadily since FY17.
Attracting competitive funding for research is essential to maintaining the Carnegie Classification R1 status, which puts UNH in the top tier of research universities nationwide, and is one of the academic performance metrics that will help UNH achieve its goal to become a top-25 public university.
While this funding achievement signals an important milestone in UNH’s research enterprise, it does not represent an unrestricted windfall of cash to the university. External grants and awards fund specific research projects and are carefully accounted for through a robust compliance process mandated by grantors.