The Research Arms Race

The Current Health and Future Well-being of the American Research University

A newly-released report examining the challenges facing US research universities claims the institutions are currently caught in a “research arms race”.

Entitled The Current Health and Future Well-being of the American Research University, the report was unveiled at a meeting of the Council on Research Policy and Graduate Education held in Washington DC in June. The study*, produced by the Research Universities Futures Consortium, was a community driven effort. It was coordinated by Dr Brad Fenwick (University of Tennessee), with support from Elsevier, and involved 25 of the nation's top research universities. Dr Fenwick and his team examined the ability of universities to compete in today’s complex and rapidly changing R&D environment and explored how better information and cohesive strategies are needed to address the challenges effectively.

Key findings

It is clear US research institutions are not alone in facing pressures brought on by the current economic environment. But it is the combination and complexity of those pressures — including declining funding, erosion of endowments (gifts, often monetary), soaring tuition costs, research competition and increasing compliance and reporting requirements — that now challenge the academic research enterprise.

The report outlines six overarching themes that provide a framework for understanding the current conditions, and findings suggest collaborative action is needed to address some of those key challenges. Plans are underway to explore and develop the preliminary recommendations further during a subsequent phase.

Learn more and view the full report

* Participating institutions were a mix of public and private, balanced between large and moderately sized institutions, geographically diverse, and represented either a well-established or significantly growing research portfolio. A total of 78 interviews at the 25 institutions were conducted between 2011 and early 2012. The interviewees ranged from central research leadership to large groups involving college associate deans and research center directors.

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