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UM sees increase in global research rankings, research spending

National Taiwan University ranked UM high in the field of agricultural sciences, and plant and animal science. The school also ranked high in research focused on the environment and geosciences.

A scoring of scientific papers and their impact on research landed the University of Montana in the upper tier of global research institutions, continuing the school’s quest to become a leader in the field.

The study, released this month by National Taiwan University, ranked UM high in the field of agricultural sciences, and plant and animal science. The school also ranked high in research focused on the environment and geosciences.

“It’s a clear indication that our research is having an impact that other researchers find useful in the research they’re doing,” Scott Whittenburg, vice president of research and creative scholarship, said Monday. “It indicates that our faculty are producing a large number of publications of interest to researchers around the world.”

The NTU rankings are based on scientific papers and reflect scientific performance in three perspectives, including research productivity, such as the number of faculty members who publish their research in journals.

Whittenburg said research excellence and the impact of that research also play a role in the rankings, including the number of citations the publications receive from other researchers.

“Faculty publications, the citation of those articles by other researchers, and the high impact of those journals are primary indicators of quality, and they demonstrate that our faculty and students are conducting research on par with leading institutions around the world,” Whittenburg said.

Of the more than 4,000 research institutions worldwide, NTU ranks in the top 800 based on their production of scientific papers and the impact of those papers. UM was the highest-ranked Montana institution.

The findings continue the school’s growing prominence in the field of global research, a push launched more than five years ago by former UM President Royce Engstrom.

Earlier this year, UM set a new record in research funding by landing nearly $88 million to support its projects. That marked an increase over the record set last year when the school secured $86 million.

Expenditures from awarded grants and contracts also increased 12 percent this year to $88 million. The number of proposals submitted by faculty for research climbed to 716, a nearly 100-fold increase over the prior year.

The university’s growth in both expenditures and proposals could continue to increase, Whittenburg said.

“They’ve been increasing over the last three years and we think that will continue through next year,” Whittenburg said. “We’ve got several very large proposals out and we’ll hear about them in the next month. If those are awarded, and we think they will be, we’ll have some good numbers again this year.”

While the growth in research is good for UM, it also has benefits to Missoula. The university has funded a study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research to determine just how deep those benefits run.

“It has both a direct impact and an indirect impact, not just in the number of employees and research dollars, but also in the number of startups and in sales (of research related items),” Whittenburg said. “It’s good for the region and the state.”