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  1. #21
    Ancient Hokie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Truthahn View Post
    I just noticed it, and it is fun to see where everyone ends up on the list. So many people complained about Louisville's ranking last year, and that it was just one off of WVU's that I noted it when going through the list.

    My disappointment is that JMU is now 6th on the South regional list. I think JMU should be ranked with the national list by now. Plus, IIRC they were higher on the South list last year. ODU is on the national list, for example, and I think JMU should even be ranked higher than ODU. I wonder how they decide that?
    JMU isn't on the national list because they don't qualify for the national list. The criteria are right there in the report. It has to do with the doctoral degrees awarded.
    "It's a half an inch of water, and you think you're going to drown."

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ancient Hokie View Post
    JMU isn't on the national list because they don't qualify for the national list. The criteria are right there in the report. It has to do with the doctoral degrees awarded.
    Here it is: "Schools in the National Universities category, such as the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master's and Ph.D. programs." "Regional Universities offer a full range of undergrad programs and some master's programs but few doctoral programs."
    "It's a half an inch of water, and you think you're going to drown."

  3. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Truthahn View Post
    US News 2014 ranking for U of L is 161, down from 160. I guess it was too much to expect them to move up any time soon.

    WVU dropped as well. IIRC they were 161 last year, just one spot behind Louisville. They are now 170.
    It will take a decade before Louisville sees any significant movement in the rankings. The problem is that rankings are based on things that don't change very fast. The only way Louisville would see a quick change is if they began stealing a significant portion of smart Kentucky high schoolers from UK, and why would that happen?

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perfesser View Post
    It's medical schools that bring in research dollars. In FY 2011, $37 billion was spent on life science research -- $20 billion alone on medical research. In comparison, engineering research expenditures were $10 billion. That was Nebraska's problem with the AAU -- the Nebraska medical school was considered a separate campus/institution, thereby dropping their research expenditures.

    FYI, ag spending is a significant element of VT's research expenditures. Using the 2013 figures, ag-related research (Ag & Life Sciences, Natural Resources, and Vet School), VT spent $85.2 million on ag-related sponsored research. Engineering spent $132.2 million, and the university as a whole spent $286.5 million. To put that in perspective, at VT, engineering is about 46% of the research budget. At A&M, engineering is about 37% of the research budget ($264 million out of $706 million total) while life sciences (ag, med, etc.) account for just over 26% ($187 million).

    What hurts Tech vis a vis the AAU isn't the ag programs. It's the lack of a dedicated medical research institution to generate research dollars and the lack of significant grad programs outside the STEM fields. AAU looks at both elements of research production: grants and graduates (i.e., PhDs).
    You are correct about Med Schools being a driver of research dollars -- and that Nebraska was hurt by the governance structure of its medical school. But I disagree that Ag may not be impacting VT's potential AAU membership.

    One of the key criteria for AAU membership is "competitive" research dollars. A large chunk of federally sponsored Ag research is non peer reviewed and thus does count toward this AAU membership criteria. Not surprisingly, a decent chunk of Nebraska's research is non peer-reviewed and this was a key factor in their lack of support from its AAU brethren.

    The AAU then adds a double whammy by also looking at the competitive research dollars per faculty member. However they don't exclude Ag faculty members from this calculation. Meanwhile non-tenure track medical school faculty (for which Medical Schools rely upon heavily for research) are not included in this calculation.

    These criteria clearly put land-grant universities trying to gain membership (or those current members in the bottom quintile) -- especially those without significant medical school research -- at a disadvantage over private schools and public institutions that do not have such an agricultural mission as one of their mandates.

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by marcbvtgm View Post
    You are correct about Med Schools being a driver of research dollars -- and that Nebraska was hurt by the governance structure of its medical school. But I disagree that Ag may not be impacting VT's potential AAU membership.

    One of the key criteria for AAU membership is "competitive" research dollars. A large chunk of federally sponsored Ag research is non peer reviewed and thus does count toward this AAU membership criteria. Not surprisingly, a decent chunk of Nebraska's research is non peer-reviewed and this was a key factor in their lack of support from its AAU brethren.

    The AAU then adds a double whammy by also looking at the competitive research dollars per faculty member. However they don't exclude Ag faculty members from this calculation. Meanwhile non-tenure track medical school faculty (for which Medical Schools rely upon heavily for research) are not included in this calculation.

    These criteria clearly put land-grant universities trying to gain membership (or those current members in the bottom quintile) -- especially those without significant medical school research -- at a disadvantage over private schools and public institutions that do not have such an agricultural mission as one of their mandates.
    Much of VT's ag-related research is NSF-funded. Unfortunately, since VT publicly reports its research expenditures by college, it's difficult to correlate with NSF data (which is reported by area).

    While research funding certainly is an issue with the AAU vis a vis Tech, a potentially bigger issue is the PhD programs at Tech. They tend to be overwhelmingly concentrated in a few distinct areas (mostly STEM). While that's not necessarily a problem for certain high power STEM-focused schools (Cal Tech, MIT, GIT), VT considers itself a comprehensive university. The lack of a comprehensive research program is problematic.

    I'll point out that one of the most recent three schools to gain membership was a land-grant with a strong ag focus -- A&M. It's also a much more comprehensive institution doctorally than is VT (as is the other school to gain membership in '01 -- SUNY Stony Brook).

  6. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perfesser View Post
    It's medical schools that bring in research dollars. In FY 2011, $37 billion was spent on life science research -- $20 billion alone on medical research. In comparison, engineering research expenditures were $10 billion. That was Nebraska's problem with the AAU -- the Nebraska medical school was considered a separate campus/institution, thereby dropping their research expenditures.

    FYI, ag spending is a significant element of VT's research expenditures. Using the 2013 figures, ag-related research (Ag & Life Sciences, Natural Resources, and Vet School), VT spent $85.2 million on ag-related sponsored research. Engineering spent $132.2 million, and the university as a whole spent $286.5 million. To put that in perspective, at VT, engineering is about 46% of the research budget. At A&M, engineering is about 37% of the research budget ($264 million out of $706 million total) while life sciences (ag, med, etc.) account for just over 26% ($187 million).

    What hurts Tech vis a vis the AAU isn't the ag programs. It's the lack of a dedicated medical research institution to generate research dollars and the lack of significant grad programs outside the STEM fields. AAU looks at both elements of research production: grants and graduates (i.e., PhDs).
    Actually, if I recall correctly, the problem with Nebraska and AAU is that USDA research $ are not counted in the AAU calculations (based on the argument that they are allocated rather than awarded as part of a competitive process). However, the faculty associated with those research efforts still count in the denominator in per FTE numbers. It's a double-whammy in many ways.

  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by jesuisvtguy View Post
    I'm all for ranking colleges into tiers, but to rank one college 55 and another 62 is extremely subjective. I think it does a disservice to the real purpose of education and provides incentives for universities to focus on manipulating the statistics. We all get suckered into the US News rankings and they developed a great branding strategy. What do exact rankings mean in the end? Nada.
    I read that there was going to be a greater emphasis on gradution rates in the rankings. That seems counterintuitive to me: I mean, if a school is failing more kids because they don't perform to a high standard, doesn't that make the degree more valuable? Ranking a school high because they graduate more kids just incentivizes the school to pass everybody. Makes no sense to me.

  8. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perfesser View Post
    Much of VT's ag-related research is NSF-funded. Unfortunately, since VT publicly reports its research expenditures by college, it's difficult to correlate with NSF data (which is reported by area).
    In your opinion, is research money distributed fairly (and I'm not even sure what I mean by that) among the schools and states? I have this notion that certain schools in the B1G, P12 etc. aggressively seek federal money, which allows them to create advanced research programs, which in turn qualifies them for better grants. I'd like to know whether I'm paying taxes to make UCLA a great school as opposed to VT.

  9. #29

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    Makes sense...the best schools have high graduation rates.

    Quote Originally Posted by lawhokie View Post
    I read that there was going to be a greater emphasis on gradution rates in the rankings. That seems counterintuitive to me: I mean, if a school is failing more kids because they don't perform to a high standard, doesn't that make the degree more valuable? Ranking a school high because they graduate more kids just incentivizes the school to pass everybody. Makes no sense to me.
    Just look at what the best schools are doing. Harvard, Stanford, etc. have extremely high graduation rates. Is it because they're just churning out slackers and have no standards? No, it's because they don't let anyone but the best students in to start. I hear what you're saying about not just passing people through, but the best schools don't have to take the risk on more mediocre students.

  10. #30

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    Grants

    Quote Originally Posted by lawhokie View Post
    In your opinion, is research money distributed fairly (and I'm not even sure what I mean by that) among the schools and states? I have this notion that certain schools in the B1G, P12 etc. aggressively seek federal money, which allows them to create advanced research programs, which in turn qualifies them for better grants. I'd like to know whether I'm paying taxes to make UCLA a great school as opposed to VT.
    Short answer: yes. But like anything, there are some factors that make it easier for certain entities to succeed over others.

    Federal research money is distributed on merit. All federal grants are awarded through peer review. You create a proposal which is then vetted and graded by reviewers (academics, for the most part). The proposals are graded on potential for advancement of knowledge, potential impact on society/field, and the quality of the research team/facility.

    Now, that's where some subjectivity enters the process -- reviewers are interested in who the Principal Investigators (PIs) are, where they went to school, what they've published, and what grants they've had before. A researcher who trained at a top school, had pubs from her graduate school period, did a post-doc at a top facility, and has good connections will probably get the benefit of a doubt that a less well-connected researcher would not enjoy. PIs who get grants in the past tend to get grants in the future because they're known commodities. This is why there's such emphasis on top schools attracting top faculty -- it's the faculty (the PIs) who get the grants, not the schools. The schools take a cut (more on that in a bit), but the PIs are the ones who win the grant and are held responsible for the outcome.

    Some schools are better at attracting grants than are others. When we were in College Station, my wife worked for TAMRF (Texas A&M Research Foundation, a non-profit affiliated with A&M whose sole function was to help attract grants and then administer them once awarded). Most large doctoral research universities do this, but (like anything) some are better at it than others. TAMRF was very proactive, especially with graduate students and non-STEM fields. They knew they could get STEM grants fairly easily, but they also wanted to get as much grant money as possible.

    Grant-writing is a skill, as is grant administration. Some are better at it than others are, and some are willing to do more to attract these folks to their staffs. Screw up the proposal or the administration of the grant, and the feds probably won't do much business with you. Writing a grant proposal is not easy, nor is administering it. It's like any other federal contract --lots of regulations, generally imposed to ensure the taxpayers' money is spent as promised. My wife's sole function was to oversee subcontracts from TAMU grants to overseas researchers who were part of grants awarded to A&M PIs and to ensure that the funds and reporting complied with federal regulations. If you were a Clemson faculty member subcontracted to a TAMU grant, somebody else in TAMRF oversaw the subcontract.

    A top graduate program also helps attract grants. Grad students and post-docs are the ones who usually do most of the grunt work on the grants -- if you don't have quality grad students (and can't attract them), then an institution or PI probably won't get too many grants. Schools have an incentive to encourage grants -- they charge an overhead cost to PIs to cover administrative and other costs. Since grant budgets usually include equipment costs, the schools generally benefit there as well.

    If you want more grant money to go to a specific school, you have to be willing to do certain things. You have to be attractive to top faculty and top graduate students -- not just in terms of geographic location and in resources, but in other intangible quality of life issues. You have to have programs that attract top students and faculty -- and be willing to devote the resources to those programs. You to create the infrastructure to facilitate grants (i.e., research administrators, grant-writers, and the like -- see TAMRF). Some schools are better at this than others. But the grants are, in the end, awarded on the merit of the proposal and the PI.

    Yes, your tax dollars are going to UCLA ... and will continue to do so. Just as TV networks know the national audience is there for ND, Michigan, UF, and USC and not there so much for UAB and WVU, so too do reviewers recognize UCLA is a known commodity. If you want to move up, you need to be willing to do what it takes to lure the researchers away from UCLA and the like. And that's more involved than just hiring the hot new PhD in a specific field. Some states are willing to spend more on public research universities than others are (just like some schools are more willing to spend on athletics than are others). As long as that's the case, expect those states (and those schools) to garner more of the grant money. Some recruits prefer cities to rural towns; same with faculty and grad students.

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