Isles' research funding among top
The state's $169M in research grants leads the nation in growth
The amount of federal research money going to Hawaii more than doubled to $169.4 million in 2004, from $81.3 million in 2000, according to a recent National Science Foundation report.
Hawaii led the nation among states for the percentage increase in funding.
Gary Ostrander, vice chancellor for research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said the state benefits threefold from research at UH.
He said the jobs and money spent in Hawaii help the economy. Students benefit from professors who are doing cutting-edge research in their fields. And, he said, the research on topics like tsunamis, volcanoes and disaster management helps make Hawaii a safer and better place to live.
Hawaii leads the nation in the growth of federally funded scientific research, an annual National Science Foundation report shows.
In 2000 the state received $81.3 million from the federal government for research projects. Over five years, that figure more than doubled to $169.4 million in 2004, the most recent figures reported by the NSF.
But University of Hawaii officials warn that the growth in research might not continue this year.
States with the largest increase in federal research grants between 2000 and 2004:
Hawaii - 108.3 percent
Nebraska - 85.2 percent
North Dakota - 81.5 percent
Tennessee - 73.9 percent
Kentucky - 60.9 percent
States with the highest federal research grants per capita:
District of Columbia - $324.72
Maryland - $249.03
Massachusetts - $208.52
Hawaii - $134.50
Connecticut - $131.79
U.S. average - $80
Source: State Science & Technology Institute and National Science Foundation
Gary Ostrander, UH-Manoa vice chancellor for research, said the cost of the war in Iraq and the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Katrina is reducing the amount of federal funds available for research.
Interim Vice President for Research Jim Gaines said research and training grants increased in both 2005 and last year. But he also cautioned that this year could lag behind previous years.
Federally funded research at UH-Manoa runs the gamut from archaeological excavations of third-century Cambodian ruins to lasers that can find weapons of mass destruction to the germ-fighting potential of Hawaiian vanilla.
The Health and Human Services, Defense, Commerce and Education departments; the National Science Foundation; and NASA fund most of the federal projects at UH-Manoa.
Defense Department grants accounted for $52.3 million in 2004 and a significant part of the growth in federal spending on research. An Air Force contract to run the Maui supercomputer is a large part of that amount -- about $24 million.
The university began running the Maui High-Performance Computing Center in 2002. The Pan-STARRS space survey program, run by the UH Institute of Astronomy, brought in $13.7 million from the Air Force in 2004, compared with nothing in 2000.
Gaines said negotiations are continuing to establish a controversial Navy University Affiliated Research Center at UH. But he said there is no progress to report, and the last meeting with the Navy was held in January.
It is not just government funding that is growing in Hawaii.
In a separate report released in December, the National Science Foundation ranked Hawaii second in the nation for growth in private industry research. Private spending on research in the state was at $11.2 million in 2000 and grew to $21.2 million in 2004, a 90.3 percent increase over five years.
In the October Board of Regents meeting, UH President David McClain said total research and training grants hit $432 million last year. That figure includes not only federal spending, but also international, state and private industry grants.
The School of Ocean & Earth Science & Technology garners the largest amount of total funding -- $66 million in 2005, followed by the John A. Burns School of Medicine at $61 million, the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii at $26 million, the College of Natural Sciences at $25 million, the Institute for Astronomy at $23 million, the College of Education at $17 million and the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at $16 million.
Ostrander credits the growth in research funding to the faculty. UH has reinvested in itself, he said, hiring researchers away from other universities and bringing up younger faculty members who are becoming leaders in their fields of study.
UH-Manoa ranked 72nd of 1,243 institutions receiving federal funds in 2004, according to the NSF.
UH-Hilo is also seeing growth in its research enterprise, ranking 253 out of 1,243 institutions that got federal grants. UH-Hilo researchers reported $18.6 million in grants in 2005, compared with $3 million in 1998.
Ostrander emphasized that the benefits from increased research at UH are more than just financial.
"The knowledge that is created, the information that's created, is going to benefit the people of Hawaii," he said.